From Nov. 1 to Nov. 23 the theater is hosting the “AFI Silver Silent Cinema Showcase,” featuring a bevy of silent films, including “Steamboat Bill Jr.,” starring Buster Keaton. The movie tells the story of a steamboat captain’s son who has a personal vendetta against an extremely rich ferryboat owner. You can catch it on Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 8 at 5:30 p.m.
“The Mark of Zorro”, playing on Nov. 8, is a 1920 film that tells the famous story of a masked swordsman who battles his arch nemesis, Capitan Juan Ramon. “Robin Hood,” made in 1922, will be playing on Nov. 8 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets for both films are $15 for the general public, $12 for AFI Members and $7 for children.
Silent films have made a kind of comeback among everyday movie audiences in the last couple of years, and Todd Hitchcock, director of programming at AFI, said two recent films had a lot to do with that.
“AFI Silver organized the first ‘Silent Cinema Showcase’ in 2012, following on the renewed interest in this era of movie history, with both ‘The Artist’ and Martin Scorsese’s ‘Hugo,’ which won five Oscars that year,” Hitchcock said. “This is the third such program, but we’ve also screened many silent films in the past year as part of our Charlie Chaplin, Raoul Walsh and WWI series.”
Other films included in the showcase are “He Who Gets Slapped,” a story about a scientist who’s dealing with an unsuccessful invention and an unfaithful wife, so he joins a circus as a clown and deals with a whole new set of problems. You can catch it on Nov. 14 at 7:15 p.m. Tickets are $15 for the general public and $12 for AFI members.
On Nov. 15 you can catch “The Mishaps of Musty Suffer,” a series of 30 comedic shorts made from 1916 to 1917 that draws much of its inspiration from slapstick comedy and circus entertainment. Other featured films include “The General,” made in 1926, and “The Iron Horse” and “The Epic of Everest,” both made in 1924.
Music plays a colossal role in silent cinema. The films at this year’s showcase feature a wide variety of music, as organizers wanted to make sure many different musical tastes were catered to.
“The musicians do so much to bring the film to life for today’s audiences,” Hitchcock said. “Our program this year has everything from solo guitar to a full orchestra, with various combinations of rock, jazz, classical, and avant-garde music scored to the film. The films were always intended to be seen and heard, and there are some very talented and creative musicians working in this field today.”
Though many of the films in the showcase are family-friendly, there are some younger audiences may like more than others.
“Silent comedians like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton always connect with younger viewers, right from the first time they see them on screen,” Hitchcock said. “I’ve seen kids come out of the theater imitating the Chaplin walk in the lobby—and these are 100-year-old films. Older kids might also like the weird and spooky films, especially the German expressionist style, including the first vampire film, ‘Nosferatu,’ and sci-fi classic ‘Metropolis.’”
AFI’s Silver Theatre and Cultural Center is located in the heart of Downtown Silver Spring, at 8633 Colesville Road.