Women and the Silent Screen Presents Entr’acte

May 26, 2021

Women and the Silent Screen (WSS), the biennial international conference sponsored by Women and Film History International (WFHI), has been a hub for the exchange of research focused on all forms of women’s involvement during the earliest decades of film history. As a prelude to the 2022 in-person event, WSS will host a free online edition open to all June 4–6, 2021.

Four programs of panels and workshops, along with online screenings, will explore women’s contributions to cinema in the silent era, the 21st century scholarship surrounding these achievements, and film restoration efforts to preserve them. In conjunction with the weekend conference, on Wednesday, June 2, at 2:30pm EST, the latest Kennington Bioscope program (Solax, The House Built by Alice Guy Blaché) will premiere with live music and introductions; the show will be available to view free on the KB YouTube channel through June 30, 2021.

In addition to these nine short films (1911–1913) directed and produced by Guy Blaché, the first woman filmmaker, other screenings will include:

  • the international debut of a new version of Chinese American Marion E. Wong’s The Curse of Quon Gwon (1916), with the restoration of the long-lost plot through reconstructed intertitles
  • early documentaries by Soviets Lidia Stepanova, Elizaveta Svilova, and Arsha Ovanesova, digitized by the Russian State Film and Photo Archive (RGAKFD) in Moscow and never before seen in the US: Manifesto (1927), Tungus (1927), Bukhara (1927), and the second episode of Pioneers (1931)
  • renowned Soviet documentarian Esfir Shub’s rarely shown film, Today (Cannons or Tractors?), so radical that it was confiscated by the New Jersey state police when the film was last screened in the US in the 1930s
  • preview clips from the 2021 documentary Alice Guy, Pioneer of the 7th Art, Forgotten by History, along with a discussion on the filmmaker by critics Manohla Dargis (New York Times) and Ariel Schweitzer (Cahiers du cinéma)
  • A tenth film by Alice Guy Blaché, A Comedy of Errors (1912), shot across the Hudson River in Fort Lee, New Jersey, like the other Solax productions in the Kennington Bioscope program on June 2

The films to screen are courtesy of the Russian State Film and Photo Archive (all the Soviet documentaries); the Academy Film Archive (The Curse of Quon Gwon); Cathy Palumbo and ARTE France (Alice Guy, Pioneer of the 7th Art, Forgotten by History); and for the Alice Guy Blaché films: Eye Filmmuseum (Frozen on Love’s TrailTwo Little Rangers); BFI (The Strike); George Eastman Museum (A Man’s a Man); the Library of Congress (The SewerCousins of SherlockoThe Detective’s DogGreater Love Hath No Man); the Lobster Films Collection at the Library of Congress (Starting Something); and Kino Lorber (A Comedy of Errors).

The conference programs are:

I. “Bees and Roses: Chinese Women Directors and Silent Era US-Chinese Film Connections”

Centered around a discussion of director/producer Marion E. Wong’s The Curse of Quon Gwon (Mandarin Film Co., US, 1916) and featuring new intertitles along with Wong family research, this program puts Wong and director Esther Eng together in context of their shared status as female Chinese American filmmakers.

II. “Founding Mothers: Women Filmmakers of Early Soviet Documentary”

This program brings to the screen works of women filmmakers who actively contributed to the Soviet socialist documentary tradition: Elizaveta Svilova, Lidia Stepanova, Arsha Ovanesova, and, most famously, Esfir Shub.

III. “Starting Something: Alice Guy Blaché and Early Cinema, from Sound and Color to Transatlantic Studio Production

Candid conversations with archivists, scholars, and critics, and a look at recent film restorations and forthcoming multimedia projects, will offer fresh perspectives on the diverse and innovative legacy of Alice Guy Blaché, long celebrated as the first woman filmmaker.

IV. “Breakthroughs: What Can Digital Humanities Tell Us That We Didn’t Know?”

This show-and-tell panel will look at three current digital humanities initiatives centered around feminist film historiographical questions.

For full program details, visit https://wssxi.library.columbia.edu.

This conference is supported by Women and Film History International, the Fort Lee Film Commission’s Barrymore Film Center, and the following Columbia University departments and initiatives: the MA in Film and Media Studies Program at the School of the Arts; History; Harriman Institute; Maison Française; Weatherhead East Asian Institute; Dragon Summit Culture Endowment Fund for C. V. Starr East Asian Library; Columbia University Libraries; Digital Scholarship; and Women Film Pioneers Project. The Kennington Bioscope program is sponsored by the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.

Read more here.