For the last 10 years, the organizers of the International Silent Film Festival have been taking cinephiles back to the time when movies did not have recorded sound and synchronized dialogue but had live music that made the moving pictures come alive.
This way, the organizers—composed of the cultural offices or embassies of participating countries Germany, Spain, France, Austria, U.S.A., Japan, the Philippines, and for the first time this year, U.K.—are able to honor the silent film era, which basically ran from the invention of film in the mid-1890s to the introduction of sound in the late 1920s.
It is also a way to showcase each country’s cinematic wealth and another avenue to challenge the artistry of Filipino and some foreign musicians.
There was the nearly forgotten 1934 Filipino film Brides of Zulu with live musical scoring by a group of Tausug artists called Panday Pandikal Cultural Troupe.
Then there was the celebrated German film Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang, accompanied by the Filipino live dance music group Rubber Inc.
And the list goes on.
“We try to aim higher,” said Shadin Kitma, program coordinator of the German cultural institute Goethe-Institut Philippines, in an interview with PEP.ph at the film fest’s press launch held last August 16 at the Shangri-La Plaza Mall in Mandaluyong City.
(Shangri-la Plaza has been the film fest’s faithful partner for 10 years, providing one of its cinema houses as venue for all the screenings scheduled to take place from August 25 to 28, 2016.)
The musical headliners this year include iconic Pinoy rock figure Ely Buendia, frontman of the 1990s megaband Eraserheads and currently of the bands Pupil, The Oktaves and Apartel.
Ely provides musical scoring to the Italian film Maciste All’inferno, a story that takes place in hell.
Joining Ely in the lineup is his contemporary Basti Artadi, vocalist of the revered rock group Wolfgang who’s now largely known as a solo artist.
Basti brings his unique musicality to the Austrian film Der Balletterzherzog, which is about a love triangle among an archduke, a count, and a ballerina.
Representing this generation is Up Dharma Down, the band internationally cited for its “genre-defying” music and fronted by one-of-a-kind performer Armi Millare.
Up Dharma Down gives its own brand of musical scoring to the German film Der letzte Mann, a drama considered as an important work by F.W. Murnau.
The Philippine entry, Maicling Maicling Pelicula nang Ysang Indio Nacional, directed by Raya Martin, will have musical accompaniment by the indie rock band Oh! Flamingo.
The U.K. film, Play On! Silent Shakespeare, will have that jazzy feel courtesy of the Tago Jazz Collective.
Spain is represented by the zarzuela La Revoltosa, which will be set to music by the DingDong Fiel Music Ensemble and tenor Miguel Angel Lobato.
Japan fields in a tragic love story of forbidden love titled Muteki, and it will be scored by the Makiling Band.
From the U.S., there is the rom-com-action flick For Heaven’s Sake plus the musical scoring by the 10-piece band Brass Pas Pas Pas Pas.
Finally, France has two films: Le Pied de Mouton and Le Petit Soucet. Both films have been assigned to Filipino musical director, arranger, composer, and conductor Felipe Latonio Jr.
The choice of films and musicians, as explained to PEP.ph by Goethe-Institut Philippines’ program coordinator Shadin Kitma, solely lies on the cultural officers of the participating countries.
In Germany’s case, Kitma said they chose Der letzte Mann because “it’s a revolutionary film by F.W. Murnau” that “deviates from the standard film na static lang ’yong scenes.”
He added: “This one, free movement ’yong camera, so the filmmaker really goes in and goes out, or follows the protagonist—which, at that time, was very new. We like it very much.”
Kitma explained that they opted for Up Dharma Down because the band’s music is suited to the movie.
Also: “Because they’re good. They’re popular. We know that there’s a demand. Gusto ng mga tao na papuntahin sila sa Silent Film Festival, but never nangyayari. And now, we’re able to do it.”
As a rule, he pointed out that Goethe-Institut Philippines gives a “free hand” to their chosen band or musicians in the creating musical scoring, and Up Dharma Down is no exception.
Kitma reiterated what his counterpart from the Japanese cultural institute Japan Foundation, Roland Samson, said earlier during the presscon proper, something about the film fest being a competition among partner-organizers.
“It’s a silent competition,” Kitma said, pun not intended. “But it’s okay because at the end of the day, ’yong fans ang nakikinabang kasi the quality of our entries is improving and improving because of the competition.”
The 10th International Silent Film Festival runs from August 25 to 28, 2016 at the Shang Complex of the Shangri-La Plaza Mall in Mandaluyong City. In celebration of the film fest’s first decade, there will also be lectures and a roundtable discussion. A multimedia exhibit curated by Filipina photographer, visual artist, and graphic designer Nikkorlai Tapan has been set at the mall’s Grand Atrium as an additional treat for longtime and first-time viewers.
For inquiries, call 370-2500 loc. 597 or visit www.facebook.com/shangrilaplazaofficialfanpage