Hippodrome Silent Film Festival announces 2021 digital programme

Today, Falkirk Community Trust has announced the Hippodrome Silent Film Festival’s 10th festival programme, taking place from Wednesday 17 to Saturday 21 March 2021. The festival, which is affectionately known as HippFest, is usually housed in Scotland’s oldest purpose-built cinema The Hippodrome in Bo’ness. This year however, the full programme will go online for the first time, after being cancelled in the wake of the pandemic last year.

The 10th programme is as varied as ever, featuring fan favourites and lesser-known classics from the silent era. Thanks to the new online format, audiences can enjoy music from across the globe, including accompaniment from acclaimed international jazz musician Wycliffe Gordon and the Graves Brothers from the USA.

And, as in previous years, the women of Hollywood are front and centre with Marlene DietrichLouise Brooks and Mary Pickford all featuring in the star-studded programme.

The festival kicks off on Wednesday 17 March with Body and Soul (1925) a film by Oscar Micheaux - one of the most successful African-American film makers of the early 20th Century. Introduced by film historian and documentary filmmaker, Professor Charles Musser, and accompanied by an 18-piece orchestral score written by American jazz musician Wycliffe Gordon. Post screening, viewers can learn more about the history of jazz and its role in American film with a live Q&A, and listen to Wycliffe’s playlist at the end of the night.

Thursday’s line-up is filled with a sense of adventure, kicking off with a Behind-the-Scenes Tour of the Hippodrome Cinema in the morning, and in the evening, a rare screening of thrilling documentary Grass: A Nation’s Battle for Life (1925). This feature by the dynamic directing duo behind ‘King Kong’, tells the jaw-dropping story of a tribe of nomads in Iran and their epic trek with half-a-million animals across impossible terrain to reach summer pasture.

On Friday, Festival favourite Neil Brand illuminates HippFest’s programme, with his orchestral score written for British drama Underground (1928), performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and introduced by the BFI’s silent film curator Bryony Dixon. Neil will also provide piano accompaniment for the Friday Night Gala presentation of The Eagle (1925), a sweeping historical romance starring Hollywood’s original sex symbol: Rudolph Valentino as a dashing Russian lieutenant who catches the lustful eye of Catherine the Great.

On Saturday afternoon silent film historian and writer Pamela Hutchison introduces the French Prix de Beauté (1930), starring iconic star of the silent era Louise Brooks, with a brilliant score written and performed by multi-instrumentalist Stephen Horne. Saturday evening is a glamorous affair, with the much-anticipated presentation of the German silent The Woman Men Yearn For (or Die Frau, Nach der Man Sich Sehnt) (1929) from the 2020 programme, starring the incomparable Marlene Dietrich and accompanied by Frame Ensemble, Irine Røsnes (violin), Liz Hanks (cello), Trevor Bartlett (percussion), and Jonny Best (piano), in a new musical collaboration with the Yorkshire Silent Film Festival.

The Festival takes on a Mary Pickford theme with the Silver Screen Supper Cook-a-long, where viewers follow expert instruction from Jenny Hammerton and prepare Mary Pickford’s famous Enchiladas, washed down with a bespoke HippFest Cocktail created in association with Linlithgow Gin.

The final day of the online festival kicks off with a Russian silent comedy accompanied by John SweeneyQueen’s Gambit fans will enjoy Chess Fever (or Shakhmatnaya Goryachka), a comedy about the 1925 Moscow Chess Tournament which includes footage from the tournament itself.

And finally, the festival will close with a new restoration Sparrows (1926) starring the ‘Queen of the Movies’ – Mary Pickford, and introduced by the Mary Pickford Foundation’s resident scholar Cari Beauchamp.

In addition to these screenings, pass holders will be able to take part in a host of interactive activities, including a Silent Film Quiz and a Chess Contest, as well as talks on the history of Scottish cinema during the 1918 Flu epidemic with Dr Trevor Griffiths, and a virtual tour of early Hollywood following in the footsteps of Scotland’s little known slapstick comic superstar Billie Ritchie, whose centenary it is this year.


Festival Passes to this year’s HippFest are available at INDY On Demand. For full details, please visit the HippFest website.


David White, Chair at Falkirk Community Trust said: “With so many of the Trust’s venues currently closed and our events programme on hold, it is great to see our flagship festival HippFest going ahead online. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Festival’s funders, local businesses, and all the film archivists, artists and musicians who are working with the teams at Falkirk Community Trust to make this happen.”

Alison Strauss, Festival Director (Falkirk Community Trust) said: “I am delighted to present our tenth HippFest… a year later than we originally planned but no less of a milestone! We are looking forward to welcoming back all the many fans of HippFest and to throwing open the virtual cinema doors for audiences joining us for the first time. It’s exciting to think that more people might take the plunge because attendance this year is as easy as turning up in your own front room. This is definitely one of the upsides of a virtual festival.

"Whilst we will miss all being together under the star-studded ceiling of the Hippodrome we have tried to create a comparable cocktail of screenings with music, workshops, events and activities to sweep you up in the marvellous magic of early cinema. If dressing up is your thing, go for it! If you like mingling with other festival-goers, dive in to our virtual festival hub! However you do HippFest we’re sure you’ll have a great time.”

David Smith, Director of Screen at Screen Scotland said: “HippFest is a wonderful film festival. It breathes new life into silent cinema. With music accompanying every screening, the festival is a treat for film and music lovers alike.”

Nicola Kettlewood, Film Hub Scotland Manager said: “I am delighted that Film Hub Scotland can support HippFest in taking its programme online for the first time this March. While we will miss being part of the Festival at the beautiful Hippodrome in Bo’ness, I can’t wait to discover the silent films selected for this online edition.”

Elaina Friedrichsen, Mary Pickford Foundation said: “The Mary Pickford Foundation is pleased to have HippFest 2021 premiere the newly restored and digitally mastered film, Sparrows. Sparrows was restored on film by the Library of Congress with all digital work completed by the Mary Pickford Foundation. Since Sparrows is known for its stunning visuals, the Foundation worked hard to ensure that audiences today can enjoy it in all its splendor. The Mary Pickford Company commissioned an original, orchestral score by the Graves Brothers, which was produced and recorded at the Savannah Studios in Los Angeles.”

More about HippFest

The Hippodrome Silent Film Festival (HippFest) was launched in 2011 and has since become a key annual event in the cultural calendar, drawing audiences from across Scotland and beyond, and generating significant interest internationally. The event is organised by Falkirk Community Trust and supported with funding from Film Hub Scotland, part of the BFI’s Film Audience Network, and funded by Screen Scotland and National Lottery funding from the BFI.

The Hippodrome Cinema in Bo’ness is a stunning pre-art deco picture palace dating back to 1912. In 2009, following a major restoration, it was reopened with digital and 35mm projectors and a state- of-the-art sound system, a café and licenced bar, and is a four-star VisitScotland attraction. The Hippodrome has a year-round screening programme of new releases, family blockbusters, classics, international, independent, archive and art-house films. The cinema was recently awarded a grant from Screen Scotland’s Cinema Equipment Fund to further upgrade the projection and sound equipment. The Hippodrome was named ‘Best Cinema Experience in Scotland’ in the 2019 Scottish Hospitality Awards and shortlisted for ‘Cinema of the Year’ at the 2019 Screen Awards. Currently Closed.

Falkirk Community Trust is a company limited by guarantee with charitable status and was established by Falkirk Council. On 1 July 2011 the company assumed responsibility for the management and operation of a range of community facing sport, recreation, arts, heritage and library services. As a not-for-profit organisation it strives to support community aspirations, deliver inspiring services and ensure that the experiences it offers provide equality of opportunity and access for all. Falkirk Community Trust gratefully acknowledges the support of Falkirk Council.

Screen Scotland is the dedicated partnership for screen in Scotland. With £20 million from Scottish Government and the National Lottery, Screen Scotland is driving the cultural, social and economic development of all aspects of the sector in Scotland, through enhanced funding, services and support. Screen Scotland sits within Creative Scotland and is a partnership with Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Funding Council, working in close collaboration with the sector to ensure its success.

Film Hub Scotland - as part of the BFI's Film Audience Network, Film Hub Scotland are one of eight Hubs set up across the UK to extend film choice, increase and broaden film audiences, and enhance opportunities for audiences to engage with and learn about film.