Friends of the Arts, a program of Upstate Community Enhancement Foundation, will host two days of silent films dating back as far as 1915.
The event will take place March 14 and 15 at the Chico Women’s Club, and will feature 13 films created in a time when stunt doubles weren’t an option and special effects weren’t done with computers.
“It’s like a once in a lifetime experience” Friends of the Arts President Debra Lucero said.
Films will include “Peter Pan,” 1924, “The Mark of Zorro,” 1920, and “Show People,” 1928.
“If you are studying film, if your a student of film, if you imagine yourself as a story teller, it’s a place you want to be,” Lucero said.
Also on the schedule are cartoons featuring Laurel and Hardy as well as Felix the Cat, paired with a film, reminiscent of how films were shown in the ’20s.
“I watch kids just laugh and laugh at these things and I think ‘wow what have we lost’,” Lucero said.
“Voice of the Nightingale” is a colorized short film. Created in 1923 and produced in France, this film was created by hand-painting the negative.
“... There were no special effects; think how creative film makers had to be,” Lucero said.
Before stunt doubles, Director William A. Wellman, a decorated World War I flyer, created “Wings: An Epic of the Air.”
“Everything you see in the film being done is by real people,” Lucero said.
The first ever film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, “Wings” was created with the support of President Coolidge and the Army, who supplied 86 pilots, 3,500 soldiers and a vast supply of equipment.
The festival will give the full effect of viewing a movie in the 1920s.
“How I feel after I’ve seen one of those films with the beautiful music that accompanies it, it’s like you feel like your brain got a tune-up,” Lucero said.
Two 16 mm projectors, which have been salvaged with parts from all over the world, will be loaded by hand by David Shepard. Shepard taught cinema for 34 years at the University of Southern California and spent his career restoring these types of films.
“He has such depth of knowledge of actors and directors of that era,” Lucero said. “He does it out of a love for the media. He just wants to see silent films appreciated and the art form not die out.”
Music for the films will be played live by Frederick Hodges. Hodges has appeared on national television, radio and film, and has been sought after as a silent film accompanist for both live performances and on DVD.
“Frederick Hodges ... in my opinion, is almost the star of the show,” Lucero said.
Hodges will provide about 12 hours each day of musical accompaniment that fits the style of the film.
“The one fallacy of silent films is that they’re silent. And they never were silent there was always music that accompanied them,” Lucero said.
The annual event started as a fundraiser to keep Bidwell Mansion open and has since helped in the restoration of the 1911 Steinway Concert Grand Piano at the Chico Women’s Club.
Proceeds from the fourth Chico Annual Silent Film Festival will benefits the Friends of the Arts.
“We never really raise money for our selves and we do all this other work in the community,” Lucero said.
A complete list of films and show times are available online at www.friendsoftheartsupstate.org/silent-film-festival.
An All-festival pass, which includes both days, costs $25. Tickets can be purchased for individual films as well, $10 for adults and $2 for children younger than 12.
Chico Women’s Club is located at 592 E. Third St. in Chico.