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Working Without a Box

withoutabox_250_80For years as I’ve curated the Sound of Silent Film Festival, I’ve found films that were well-known and generally available on commercial DVD.  The idea of the festival was to pair music with film but because it was crucial to me that the music be an equal partner, I wanted the films to be silent.  But, I’m also such a modernist that I wasn’t interested in the idea of working with Golden era silent films so I decided that they had to be modern silent films.

Finding these suckers turned out to be harder than I thought it would be though.  I mean, I did have some success. I found early silent films by Martin Scorsese and Gus Van Sant, there are tons of silent animated shorts and of course there’s Guy Maddin who revels in the use of silence in his films.  But there was the whole issue of screening them without permission and especially screening them with new music without permission.  I’ll admit that I was always a bit uneasy about it.

So this year I decided to pony up the bucks and use Withoutabox, a huge international search firm for film festivals.  I specified that the films had to be short and silent or at least with no dialogue, they could come from any country in the world and they could be in any genre.  I received around 120 films in all and last night I watched about a quarter of them.

As usual with submissions there’s a lot of junk but I’ve found some real gems too.  Alex Italic’s dark comedy Blackout Roulette especially stands out. I think I’ll open the festival with it this year.  I also think I’ve found my new way for finding films. It’s so nice to be able to email the directors, to not worry about having rights to screen the films and, in many cases, to be creating music for the film for the first time.  We feel like a real film festival now!

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