Netherlands Silent Film Festival
My career as a film pianist started in Italy, at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival, the biggest silent film festival in the world, where the best of the best come together. After nine years, I just finished my studies at the Utrecht Conservatory – jazz piano, classic piano, and composition – and initially my plan was to pursue a career as concert pianist. Fate decided differently. I got the opportunity to play in Pordenone, and it was there, in Teatro Verdi, that I fell in love with silent film.
I loved the humour, adventure stories, gorgeous actrices who could sweep me off my feet with just a single look. I loved that magic moment when the audience is waiting in anticipation. That moment when the lights go down, and I am ready to play the film to life with my good friend the piano.
I was fortunate enough to get noticed by the then festival director, Chaplin biographer and film critic David Robinson, who’s still a good friend of mine and who’s been a guest of honour at the NSFF. Because of him, I was able to return to Pordenone and did I receive invitations from other European festivals.
It occurred to me that such festivals didn’t exist (anymore) in the Netherlands. I started to contact people within the silent film community who I’d come to know. Because The Netherlands had to have its own festival!
In 2018, that dream became a reality: the Nederlands Silent Film Festival, which is rapidly growing. More and more people find their way to the silent film like the silent film was meant to be: accompanied by live music. It gives me enormous joy and a sense of pride to watch our visitors fall in love just like I did.
– Daan van den Hurk
Between ca. 1895 and 1930 tens of thousands of silent films were produced. However at first perceived as simplistic entertainment, the silent film was quick to elevate that stigma and became a true form of art. A medium that, by use of only images, mime and a sporadic title card, could tell complete stories. From the most hilarious comedies to the biggest adventures and heart wrenching dramas.
But the silent has never really been silent. Ever since the beginning, these films were being musically accompanied live, often by a single pianist or small band, but also by big symphony orchestras. The combination of image and music makes the silent film a much more lively experience than, say, the modern sound film.
The Nederlands Silent Film Festival (NSFF) is on a mission to keep the silent film – and all its facets – alive, and to increase its popularity once again. It’s important to show the new generations that the silent film’s not a primitive predecessor of the current blockbuster movies, but a unique, independent art form.
In collaboration with the EYE Filminstituut, Pand P, and Parktheater Eindhoven, the NSFF has grown into the place to go for silent film enthusiasts, and also new audiences who want to get acquainted with the hundred year old jewels of cinema. During its annual festival, the NSFF presents a varied program that includes the big productions. Films that hold an important place in history. Science fiction is indebted to METROPOLIS (1927), horror is indebted to NOSFERATU (1922), and comedy is indebted to Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Laurel & Hardy.
Next to these big, famous productions, the NSFF also provides lesser known diamonds. One of the recurring programs is called De Keuze van de Curator (The Curator’s Choice). Each year, the Curator Silent Film of the EYE Filminstituut gets her own spot in the schedule to bring an important, but not well-known film to the public. And the festival also pays attention to (old and new) Dutch silent films.
The NSFF also incorporates current events. In this context that might sound strange, however, silent films are rediscovered all the time in (personal) archives. Certain (banned) scenes or complete films that were previously considered lost forever are being found, and museums, together with other organisations, are constantly busy restoring old silent films.
Apart from the annual festival in January, does the NSFF organise and support – on its own or in a collaborative form – silent film showings all year round. We keep everybody who’s interested in silent film and our initiatives, informed via our website, social media and newsletter.