Hippodrome Silent Festival kicks off next week


On  Wednesday 22 March the 10th Hippodrome Silent Film Festival kicks off at Scotland’s oldest purpose-built cinema, the Hippodrome in Bo’ness.

Affectionately known as ‘HippFest’ the annual festival is run by Falkirk Community Trust, and since its launch in 2011, has showcased over 220 films, with screenings taking place in over 40 locations from Bologna to Bo’ness.

This year’s programme is packed with hidden film gems from the silent era featuring masked crusaders, real-life martyrs and mysterious femme fatales; world-class live music accompaniment, talks, workshops and tours.

Popular highlights include the festival’s Friday Night Gala screening of the 1920’s film  The Mark of Zorro, live narration from acclaimed screen actor  Paul  McGann for the closing film  L’Homme  du Large (1920), and the Scottish premiere of a live score for  City Girl  (1930) provided by skiffle and blues band  The Dodge Brothers, featuring Mark Kermode and HippFest favourite Neil Brand.

Photo provided
With so much taking place during the five-day festival it can be easy to overlook some of the programme, so here are six highlights you might have missed.

£14 (£11.50 conc.) 
Hippodrome Cinema, Wednesday 18 March, 19:30 

HippFest’s opening night event and one of the most controversial films of the 1920s. The story of Edith Cavell shot at dawn by the Germans on 12 October 1915, was perceived to have potential to inflame anti-German sentiment and disrupt international relations and was thus censored for British audiences.

In Belgium however the film was released intact, and it is this uncensored version which will open the festival. With live musical accompaniment from multi-instrumentalist Stephen Horne (piano, flute, accordion).

Preceded by a ‘Cuppa’ Talk (coffee and cake included in your ticket price) on  Wartime propaganda and peacetime diplomacy (14:00), introduced by Dr Lawrence Napper

£14 (£11.50 conc.) 
Hippodrome Cinema, Thursday 19 March, 19:30 

Shakespeare’s best-known tragedy starring Asta Nielsen – the first diva of European silent film – in the title role.

Asta Nielsen founded her own production company to realise her artistic vision for the film, in which Hamlet was born female and has to hide her true identity in order to secure the future of the throne.

With live musical accompaniment from harpist Elizabeth-Jane Bradley and multi-instrumentalist Stephen Horne, jointly commissioned by HippFest and the Goethe Institute.

The screening will be complemented by a ‘Cuppa’ Talk on  Shakespeare on the Silent Screen (13:30) from silent cinema critic and historian Pamela Hutchinson,

The Sentimental Bloke   
£10 (£8 conc.)  
Hippodrome Cinema, Friday 20 March, 15:30 

A tale of romance, jealousy, temptation and redemption. HippFest 2020 will host the international premiere of the 100th anniversary digital restoration of  The Sentimental Bloke in association with The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

Adapted from C.J. Dennis’ 1915 verse novel, the film is interspersed with charming rhyming intertitles and features Australian film industry power couple: legendary director Raymond Longford, and superstar Lottie Lyell.

A huge box office hit with audiences in 1919/20,  The Sentimental Bloke is one of few silent-era Australian films to have survived in its entirety and will be screened with live accompaniment by Australian born pianist Meg Morley.

‘Custard Pie’ Fight 
Glebe Park (in front of Bo’ness Town Hall), Saturday 21 March, 12:30 

Custard pie fights are a staple of silent film comedy, from Laurel & Hardy to Charlie Chaplin, and legend has it that Keystone Studios used so many pies that they had their own bakery. To celebrate ten years of silent cinema in Bo’ness, HippFest is hosting a massive ‘custard pie fight’ open to all. No pastry or custard here though, pies will be made from paper plates and shaving foam for gluten-free family-friendly fun. The festival hopes to involve 500 people in the event and you can register your place via Eventbrite.

New Found Sound 
£7 (£6 conc.) 
Hippodrome Cinema, Sunday 22 March, 11:00 

Part of the HippFest programme since the beginning, New Found Sound invites talented young people to create and perform music to accompany silent film. Students from Grangemouth High School will be conducting Falkirk Schools Orchestra as they premiere the new score for  All  On  A Summer’s Day (1933). This will be followed by two other short films from the National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive,  Schoolboy Hostellers (1951, abridged) and  Log Cabin (1936), accompanied by the Falkirk Schools Traditional Bands. A HippFest highlight every year, this unique programme brings new life to Scotland’s film heritage.

Steampunk   Jewellery  Workshop 
Bo’ness Town Hall, Sunday 22 March, 14:00-16:00

Inspired by the festival’s steampunk, jewel-thief heroine  Filibus : The Mysterious Air Pirate, the workshop will allow participants to make their own steampunk-style brooch.

Run by Firefly:design, a Bo’ness-based social enterprise with a focus on sustainability and upcycling, and led by design lecturer Diane Cook who will be on hand with samples and inspiration. All materials and tools included in the cost.

Festival Director  Alison Strauss said:  “We are thrilled to be celebrating our 10th edition, and so grateful to our audiences for joining us on the journey so far…  Expectations are high but we are confident that this year’s HippFest will be our most successful yet. 

It’s not just the gripping stories – like edge-of-the seat war drama ‘ Dawn ’; the long-lost prestige pictures – like ‘ The Loves of Mary, Queen of Scots ’; or the restoration premieres – like ‘ Poil  de Carotte ’… it’s the activities, experiences, workshops and exhibition that brim out of the Hippodrome, bringing silent film fun into the schools, library, shops and streets around the area.”  

The Hippodrome Silent Film Festival is operated by Falkirk Community Trust with key funding and support from Falkirk Council, Screen Scotland, Film Hub Scotland (BFI Film Audience Network) and Visit Falkirk.

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