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Not-So-Silent Sundays

With Original Scores and Live Music From Dr. Yakov Gubanov

Welcome, through June-July, for 7 pm Sunday evening screenings of great classics from the silent era, featuring live original piano scores by the HFA’s resident musical consultant, Yakov Gubanov. Dr. Gubanov, born in Kiev, the Ukraine, was a piano prodigy who, in Moscow, was awarded private lessons in composition with Dmitri Shostakovich. Gubanov wrote his doctoral dissertation on the harmony of Shostakovitch’s music, followed by a teaching career at the Kiev Conservatory and tours of Eastern Europe as a concert pianist. He also taught in Israel and, in Germany, at the Franz Liszt Musical Academy, before arriving to live in the Boston area.

June 6 (Sunday) 7 pm

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

cabinet.jpg (15646 bytes)Directed by Robert Weine
Germany 1919, b/w, silent, 35mm, 69 min.
German with English intertitles
With Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Lili Dagover

Weimar Republic hysteria translates into Expressionism run murderously wild, at the edge of a traveling carnival featuring a spooky somnambulist (Krauss) and his macabre walking-dead companion(Veidt). Wondrous set design, but is that dubious hypnotist really Caligari, the fascist head of an asylum?

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A Corner in Wheat

Directed by D.W. Griffith
USA 1909, b/w, silent, 16mm, 17 min.
With James Kirkwood, W. Chrystie Miller, Frank Powell

D.W. Griffith’s most "leftist" short, showing how a business tycoon controls the wheat market and forces farmers into poverty. Later, a Soviet favorite.

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June 13 (Sunday) 7 pm

The General

general.jpg (15278 bytes)Directed by Buster Keaton  
USA 1927, silent, b/w, 35mm, 74 min.
With Keaton, Marion Mack, Glen Cavendar

Buster Keaton’s masterful silent comedy is based on a real incident in the Civil War (the so-called "Great Locomotive Chase"), so Keaton’s strategy is to adhere to a genuine historic look. There are moments in the film where the story seems to step out of Matthew Brady photographs. Slowly, slowly, Keaton turns versimilitude into hysterical comedy, as his runaway train (Keaton’s character is on the Southern side) is chased by hoards of Unionists. Trying to impress his curly-haired girl (Mack), Keaton does all his own stunts, and these are unbelievable. 

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June 20 (Sunday) 7 pm

The Birth of a Nation

birth.jpg (14611 bytes)Directed by D.W. Griffith  
USA 1915, b/w, silent 35mm, 175 min.
With Lillian Gish, Miriam Cooper, Mae Marsh

Unquestionably one of the most influential works in the history of cinema, Griffith’s controversial, pro-Ku Klux Klan treatise prompted race riots in New York, Chicago, and Berkeley, and pickets by Boston’s NAACP. It was also banned in much of Europe for decades. Yet even its detractors must concede that it marks a cornerstone in the evolution of the cinematic language, in its use of cross-cutting, close-ups, and last minute rescue.

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June 27 (Sunday) 7 pm

Bed and Sofa

Directed by Abram Room
USSR 1926, b/w, 35mm, 71 min.
With Ludmila Semenova, Nikolai Batalov, Vladimir Fogel
Silent with English intertitles

A young married couple, a Moscow housing shortage. The married guy takes in his friend, who promptly sleeps with the wife. The wounded married guy moves out. The woman finds herself pregnant, and neither possible father want her to have an abortion. What will she decide? There are no tractors here, no Revolution, only a pleasing pre-feminist spirit.

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July 11 (Sunday) 7 pm


Directed by V.I. Pudovkin
USSR 1926, b/w, 35mm, 90 min.
With Vera Baronovskaia, Nikolai Batalov
Wilent with English intertitles

As with Eisenstein’s Potemkin, V.I. Pudovkin’s Mother, from the proletcult novel of Maxim Gorky, deals with anti-Czarist stirrings during the faltered 1905 Revolution. A worker son goes to prison because of his mother’s political inexperience. Afterward, the son attempts to escape, while his mother is attacked by horsebacked cavalry when she joins a workers’ demonstration. This is certainly Pudovkin’s most accessible work, prime Social Realism punctuated with his masterly montage.

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July 18 (Sunday) 7 pm

Broken Blossoms

Directed by D.W. Griffith
USA 1919, b/w, silent, 35mm, 80 min.

With Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Donald Crisp

This story of father-daughter abuse and interracial love in London’s dockside district is one of Griffith’s most powerful films, with great performances from Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess (as a Chinese), and Donald Crisp (as Gish’s brutal prizefighter father). The shock of World War I, which had just ended when the film was made, can be felt behind this simple domestic story, and rarely have violence and its opposite, compassion, been depicted so vividly on the screen. Griffith’s studio decor is wonderfully realistic, and his storytelling and editing tense and beautifully controlled.

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July 25 (Sunday) 7 pm

Tol'Able David

Directed by Henry King
USA 1921, b/w, silent, 35mm, 80 min.

With Richard Barthelmess, Gladys Hulette, Ernest Torrence

A mild-mannered boy (Barthelmess) takes his brother’s place delivering the mail, and dealing with a trio of heinous criminals who have moved into their rural community. Filmmaker Henry King out-Griffiths Griffith with his deft, exciting editing and cross-cutting. This was a film which, in Moscow, Eisenstein supposedly wore out studying. Leonard Maltin: "Beautifully crafted Americana. The finale is a rip-roaring piece of storytelling."

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