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Last modified: Wednesday, April 24, 2013

IU Cinema new home for Slapsticon, a film festival showcasing silent, early sound comedies

April 24, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- IU Cinema is the new home for Slapsticon, a four-day festival dedicated to the exhibition of rare silent and early sound film comedy.


IU Cinema is the new home for Slapsticon, which celebrates rare silent and early sound film comedy, including the Marx Brothers.

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Created in 2003, the annual festival was previously held in the Washington, D.C., area. It will take place on Indiana University's Bloomington campus from Thursday, June 27, to Sunday, June 30. Those dates fall within the university's Summer Festival of the Arts, an annual tradition that features 113 days of arts programming at various cultural venues on campus.

"IU Cinema is very excited to host Slapsticon this summer," IU Cinema director Jon Vickers said. "It's a wonderful chance for audiences to see rare screenings from what many consider the golden age of film comedy. In addition, hosting the festival strengthens our relationships with film archives while offering a nice complement of family-friendly programming that aligns with the university's 113 Days of Art festivities."

The film festival drew international attention in 2010 when it screened a previously unknown film featuring silent film superstar Charlie Chaplin, discovered by a film buff at a yard sale. The world "re-premiere" of the 1914 comedy "A Thief Catcher," featuring the actor in his fourth appearance as a Keystone Cop, permanently rewrote all of Chaplin's filmographies.

The festival has also premiered new archival restorations of films that were previously thought lost, as well as numerous short comedies starring well-known actors such as Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy and more obscure comics such as Lloyd Hamilton, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and Syd Chaplin, Charlie's half-brother.

Slapsticon is programmed and hosted by silent film and comedy historian Richard M. Roberts with the cooperation of numerous film archives, including the Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, UCLA Film and Television Archive and the Museum of Modern Art. The festival also relies on individual collections from around the world, including Roberts' own.

"Bringing together fans, collectors and researchers to celebrate the extraordinary richness of film comedy from the 1910s through the 1930s, when short comedies formed an essential part of almost all movie programs, Slapsticon is a unique film festival known for screening rarities and newly restored prints, often with live accompaniment," said Gregory Waller, a professor in the IU College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Communication and Culture and editor of the quarterly journal Film History.

"The intimacy and state-of-the-art projection at the IU Cinema make it the perfect venue to enjoy these movies and share four days of communal laughter while visiting one of film's great -- and still largely undiscovered -- continents," Waller said.

This year's festival will premiere several new restorations from the Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, including the 1926 comedy feature "Atta Boy," starring Monty Banks, and the 1929 British comedy "Would You Believe It?" starring Walter Forde. A popular English comedian of the silent era, Forde became one of the United Kingdom's most successful film directors during the 1930s and 1940s.

This year's festival will also feature rare material showcasing one of America's zaniest comic families: The Marx Brothers. Screenings will include hard-to-find television appearances, promotional films, home movies and other obscure footage.

Two pianists will accompany the silent comedies shown at Slapsticon: Philip Carli, house accompanist of the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y.; and Andrew Simpson of Washington, D.C.,-based Catholic University, who performs regularly at the Library of Congress Packard Campus Theater in Culpeper, Va., and the National Gallery of Art.

In addition to being regulars at the film festival, Carli and Simpson are both alumni of Indiana University.

A festival schedule and other information are available on the Slapsticon website.