Filipino artists lend music to silent films in int’l fest
For the first time, the Silent Film Festival, now in its fifth year, features works from the Philippines and Greece apart from event regulars Germany, Spain, Italy and Japan.
The Philippines is believed to have lost all its films from the silent era (1912 to 1932). But Teddy Co, a member of the Society of Filipino Archivists for Film, told the Inquirer that an American production, “Brides of Sulu” (1934) is actually two silent movies from the Philippines put together: “Moro Pirates” (directed by Jose Nepomuceno) and “Princess Tarhata,” both produced in 1931.
The link was uncovered through painstaking research. Co said the two films had earlier been bought and reedited by a US firm. Now, Co is reclaiming “Brides of Sulu” and, meanwhile, has submitted it as part of the lineup of the 5th Silent Film Festival, which runs August 26-28 at the Shangri-La Plaza Mall Cineplex. “Brides” opens the fest at 7 p.m on Friday.
As in previous years, the silent movies will be set to live music in various styles—jazz, classical, rock, chorale, indigenous and world music.
“Brides of Sulu” will be accompanied by “musical scientist” Armor Rapista and the Panday Pandikal Cultural Troupe from Jolo, Sulu. “There’ll be a lot of surprises in my scoring,” Rapista said. “My music is minimal, almost subliminal.”
It’s the first time for Greece to join the fest, said Ambassador Xenia Stefanidou, because there’s only one surviving silent film in their national archives.
Described as a staged documentary on war, “The Greek Miracle” (1921) will be accompanied by classical pianist Heliodoro Fiel, who said he’ll whip up a new piece for the film, screening August 28, 5 p.m. “It’ll be an improvisational,” Fiel said, “a fusion of new age and jazz.”
Germany’s Goethe Institute, which is spearheading the event, presents the vampire film “Nosferatu” (1922). Program coordinator Luisa Zaidesaid said renowned German silent film musician Stephan von Bothmer will collaborate with Far Eastern University Chorale to lend music to the horror classic on August 26, 7 p.m.
FEU Chorale’s Theresa Pimentel said the group is challenged by Von Bothmer’s piece, which “evokes atmosphere and contrasting emotions—happiness, sadness, misery and fear.”
Spain’s Instituto Cervantes is showcasing “Pilar Guerra” (1926), a melodrama to be accompanied by the HDC Trio, which counts Fiel as member. “Pilar Guerra” closes the fest on August 28, 5:30 p.m.
“The HDC Trio has been working on the music for two months,” said Jose Maria Fons Guardiola, Instituto deputy for cultural affairs. “This festival is important; it promotes cultural exchange, collaboration and dialogue between our two countries, and also between the old and the new, the silent movies and the young musicians.”
Japan Foundation submitted a family drama, “The Dawning Sky” (1929). World music proponents Bandang Malaya will score the film. Violinist TJ Dimacali said his band would go for “broad strokes to convey a scene’s ambience and nuances,” but was leaving room for improvisation during the actual performance on August 27, 5 p.m.
Italy’s “L’Inferno” (1911), found the “perfect” musicians in rock band Razorback, said Emanuela Adesini, cultural attaché of the Italian embassy.
“I was at the rehearsal and the music was amazing. Lead singer Kevin Roy would change his voice to match scenes in the movie, which is basically a journey to hell,” said Adesini.
Razorback manager Patrick Pulumbarit said the band would use songs from its latest album, “Three Minutes of Glory” for “L’Inferno” on August 27, 7 p.m.
“It’ll be trippy,” said Pulumbarit. Coincidentally, the album tackles similar themes as “Dante’s Inferno”—the afterlife, purgatory and hell.
The fest underlines the importance of “preserving” old movies in archives, and also “reviving them so they can be enjoyed by the present generation,” said Antonio Garcia Roger, first secretary of culture, Embassy of Spain. “Silent films are alive.”
And obviously, they can still make some noise on the scene.
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