The Newhallywood Silent Film Festival returned live and in-person for the first time since the pandemic over Memorial Day Weekend, celebrating the golden age of pre-talkie films to the delight of its patrons.
The four-day festival screened 12 films over four days, free of cost. The films were screened at two local locations — the Newhall Family Theatre for the Performing Arts and The Main.
While silent films aren’t for everyone, E.J. Stephens, co-founder of the festival, said there are still ways, or people, to sell them to those hesitant to watch one.
“The way to sell it to them is for them to watch Buster Keaton, because those will never not be funny,” said E.J.
“It’s just fantastic. We hear little kids in the audience, just howling at Buster Keaton films,” said Stephens’ wife, Kimi Stephens, co-founder of the event and E.J.’s wife. “That, of course, makes our heart just want to burst because it’s another generation that are going to love silent films.”
E.J. and Kimi said Keaton’s films in particular, and comedies in general, transcend time and allows viewers to laugh at jokes written a century earlier. While there were no Keaton films screened this year, the festival did offer a “Bustour” Keaton — a bus tour of locations throughout Los Angeles that were prominent in his career.
This year’s films aimed to spotlight Charlie Chaplin’s career — screening “The Adventurer” (1917), “The Pilgrim” (1923), “Kid Auto Races at Venice” (1914), “The Kid” (1921), “City Lights” (1931) and “Modern Times” (1936).
While the attendance was not what organizers would’ve liked it to be — as the festival was moved from February to May due to inclement weather — E.J. and Kimi said they appreciated anyone who wished to come out and enjoy a part of the Santa Clarita Valley’s history.
“There’s so much silent film history right here in Newhall and we’re thinking we can really make this a destination for kind of a niche art form,” said E.J.
Guest speakers for the event included Marc Wanamaker, Bison Archives and Leonard Maltin, film historian, critic and author.