The Hippodrome Silent Film Festival has announced the programme for its 14th edition, with a stellar line-up of silent films presented with live musical accompaniment plus fascinating talks, engaging workshops, exhibition, and a generous online offering too.
Named after its home cinema in Bo’ness, the Festival which is affectionately known as HippFest, will take place from Wednesday 20 to Sunday 24 March 2024.
Contemporary talent and vintage Hollywood stars will take the spotlight in a programme that features Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Clara Bow, and Joan Crawford; with live appearances from musicians and silent film aficionados, including Neil Brand, Jenny Hammerton, Maud Nelissen, and John Sweeney.
Depictions of Scotland on Screen are in focus, as the Festival opens with Peggy (1916) on Wednesday 20 March with live musical accompaniment from silent film accompanist Stephen Horne. Once thought lost, the film has been reconstructed with the final missing scenes being filled in with stills and text from the 1916 copyright registration to ensure that today’s audiences are not left in suspense at the film’s conclusion.
Also on the opening day, pioneering Glasgow-born filmmaker Jenny Gilbertson directs an entirely different take on Scotland, The Rugged Island: A Shetland Lyric (1933), a poignant “story documentary” about crofting families in Shetland. Presented with a new music commission by award-winning multi-instrumentalist and composer from Fair Isle: Inge Thomson, with Shetland-born Catriona MacDonald (commission funded by Creative Scotland National Lottery Open Fund for Organisations), this tender and beautiful dramatisation of Shetland life surpasses the bounds of both fiction and non-fiction filmmaking.
Still from The Norrtull Gang (1923), courtesy of the Swedish Film Institute.
Later in the Festival, local young musicians will accompany shorts from the National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive in the annual New Found Sound screening. Audiences can learn about the life of a Scottish locations manager with a visit to Callendar House on Thursday 21 March, setting for key scenes in the popular Outlander TV series, with illustrated talk from a speaker in the business of transforming some of Scotland’s best-known landmarks into backdrops for big budget blockbusters.
World cinema once again features strongly in the HippFest programme with silent films from around the world. Following the successful screening of the Kyiv city symphony In Spring (HippFest 2023), Adventures of Half a Ruble (Priklucheniya Poltinnika) (1929), gives us a touching child’s eye view of life in Kyiv on the cusp of the city’s subjugation by the Soviet Union. On Saturday 23 March the Festival presents The Organist at St Vitus Cathedral (Varhaník U Svateho Víta) (1929) starring Czech actor/singer and war hero Karel Häsler and with live musical accompaniment from Dutch composer and pianist Maud Nelissen. From Sweden comes Per Lindberg’s The Norrtull Gang (Norrtullsligan) (1923), with musical accompaniment from John Sweeney. This screening is dedicated to the memory of long time HippFest supporter Graham Wilson.
Still from The Mantrap Nortull Gang (1926), courtesy of Park Circus.
Friday night at HippFest is all about the Roaring-20s at the HippFest Friday Night Gala and Mantrap (1926) with music from Neil Brand. Victor Fleming (director of Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz) directs the silent-era’s quintessential It Girl, Clara Bow in this entertaining battle of the sexes that allows the star’s wild and independent spirit to shine. Be sure to stay for the glamorous gala afterparty, including vintage clothing pop-up, Roaring-20s revelry and much more.
Looking ahead to the Festival, HippFest Director, Alison Strauss said: “HippFest is proud to have grown a real community of people who share an adventurous appetite for extraordinary cinema and live music. I am particularly thrilled that this year we have been chosen as the festival to host the world premiere of the prestigious new restoration of ‘The Wind’ from New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and I am over the moon that we have secured the means to commission a new accompaniment for Jenny Gilbertson’s rarely screened Scottish masterpiece ‘The Rugged Island’ for the exceptionally talented Inge Thomson and Catriona MacDonald.
"We can’t wait to welcome everyone to discover these and the many other brilliant films and musicians that we have lined up. Come one come all, and be part of the unique atmosphere of the Festival, of Bo’ness and of the Hippodrome itself, where you’ll be sure to find great films, great fun, and great music.”
Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn, Leader of Falkirk Council added: “Visitors come from across the country and beyond to attend this great festival of silent film. It has always attracted an enthusiastic audience, including some well-known personalities and it’s great to see it return again for its 14th year.”
Katharine Simpson from Screen Scotland said: “HippFest, held at Scotland's first-ever cinema The Hippodrome in Bo'ness, is an unparalleled experience that stands out in both Scotland and the UK. This festival offers a one-of-a-kind blend of historic films from our cinematic legacy, complemented by live music, all curated and presented for today's audience in engaging, fun, and meaningful ways.”
The Hippodrome Silent Film Festival will run Wednesday 20 to Sunday 24 March 2024 at the Hippodrome Cinema in Bo’ness, Falkirk. Selected events and screenings will be livestreamed from the cinema, plus pre-festival talks on Frances Marion, Jenny Gilbertson, and the story of Victorian film by British Film Institute Curator of Silent Film, Bryony Dixon as part of HippFest At Home. For more information about this, the full HippFest 2024 programme and to purchase tickets, please visit The Hippodrome Silent Film Festival website.
The Hippodrome Silent Film Festival (aka ‘ 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 a project of Falkirk Council and is supported by 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
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.
Screen Scotland drives development of all aspects of Scotland’s film and tv industry, through funding and strategic support. Screen Scotland is part of Creative Scotland and delivers these services and support with funding from Scottish Government and The National Lottery. Find out more at screen.scot and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
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.
Header image: still from The Wind (1928), courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art Film