Rediscover the beauty of silent films through this online festival

Asia’s first silent film festival goes digital this month

Even in its earliest days, film and music go hand in hand. In the era of silent films, music was one of the potent tools used not just for effective storytelling, but also to convey emotions and help the pacing of the movie flow smoothly.

In the past decades, orchestrated symphonies make a movie classic and recognizable. Hearing Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s music in Black Swan sends chills down your spine. Léo DelibesFlower Duet can easily transport anyone to that heavenly state. And who could forget the great John Williams who made the iconic sounds for the movies Jaws (1975), Superman (1978), and the Star Wars franchise. 

Celebrating the power of music and film, for the first time since its creation in 2007, the International Silent Film Festival Manila will be streamed online from Dec. 4 to 6. The 14th edition of the first and oldest silent film festival in Asia will feature a selection of classic films from Japan, Italy, France, and Germany, all scored and accompanied by Filipino musicians.

The current health crisis brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic has hindered, limited, if not stopped, cultural programs worldwide. In this particular context, technology provides the means to bridge diverse cultures together. 

This year’s International Silent Film Festival Manila features 10 silent films from four countries.


On Dec. 4 (6 p.m.), the Japan Foundation Manila will present six unique animated short silent films taken from the Japanese Animation Classics collection, digitized and subtitled in English by the National Film Archive of Japan (NFAJ). The lineup will include the oldest existing Japanese animation The Dull Sword. The four-minute animation classic was directed by Junichi Kouchi and produced in 1917 which is considered the birth year of domestic animation in Japan.

The Dull Sword is about a samurai who tests his new sword by attacking a blind person. He purchased the sword from a swordsmith, known as “Dull Smith,” for four gold coins. 

The other Japanese Animation Classics shorts to be featured are Burglars of Baghdad Castle (1926), The Animal Olympics (1928), Two Worlds (1929), Old Man Goichi (1931), and A Day after a Hundred Years (1933). 

The Japanese Animation Classics in the festival will be accompanied by musical scores created by the HJH Composers Collective. The group is composed of Hiroko Nagai, Jordan Peralta, and Harold Andre Santos, contemporary music composers with a diverse musical palette of pop, classical, folk, jazz, electronic music, and traditional Philippine and Japanese music, and they frequently collaborate with other artists to create music for film, theater, dance, and visual arts.


Two films from Italy will be screened on Saturday, Dec. 5. The Silent Killer, produced by See Thru Pictures and scored by Franco Eco, narrates a mother’s journey back home amid the Covid-19 pandemic. This story alternates with interviews with scientists, politicians, ordinary people, and Covid-19 chronicles from all over the world. 

At 6 p.m., the Philippine Italian Association, in collaboration with the Cineteca di Bologna, presents Malombra, a 1917 movie by Carmine Gallone. Directly inspired by a gothic novel set on the beautiful shores of the Como Lake, the protagonist, Marina, takes quarters in the castle of her uncle where she discovers a bunch of letters. A story of past sufferings calling for revenge, a story of love and ultimately death that traps everything into the most tragic of endings, this movie will be scored by the original music composed and performed by internationally renowned classical solo-pianist Maestro Raul Sunico.


On Sunday, Dec. 6 (11 a.m.), the Embassy of France will screen Le Manoir de la peur (The Manor of Fear) directed by Alfred Machin. This silent film noir narrates the story of young Jean Lormeau who investigates a series of crimes affecting their village. Michael Mark Guevarra, one the country’s top saxophone players, will be scoring this film.


Also on Dec. 6 (6 p.m.), the Goethe Institut will screen Metropolis (1927), directed by Fritz Lang. A monumental science fiction film combines visual power with a love story around the reconciliation of labor and capital. Alyana Cabral aka Teenage Granny featuring: Kent Pesito, Miguel Nuñez, Jon Olarte, Joee Mejias, Tristan Ortega, and Kiko Nuñez will score the film. 

All films will be available on for free, and will be screened only during the times mentioned above.