Pass the Remote: Silent Film and Ocean Film festivals offer fine fare

In "Dancing Mothers," Alice Joyce, left, stars as a wronged woman who becomes liberated, and her daughter (Clara Bow, right) isn't pleased. The movie screens in the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. (Courtesy San Francisco Silent Film Festival)

With the Castro Theatre undergoing renovations, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival from April 10-14 offers 22 movies with live music at Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.  

This week, Pass the Remote covers the Silent Film fest and dips its toe into the 21st annual International Ocean Film Festival. 

In its 27th year, the event drawing devoted fans of early era filmmaking continues its tradition of showcasing restorations. In addition, the San Francisco Silent Film Award goes to Hisashi Okajima, director of the National Film Archive of Japan, for his unwavering commitment to preserve and protect silent cinema. The award will be presented after the 2 p.m. April 13 screening of  Yasujiro Ozu’s “I Was Born, But…” 

If swashbuckling action and a debonair leading man sound tempting, take in the opening night selection at 7:30 p.m. April 10. The Technicolor restoration of “The Black Pirate” stars the dashing giant of silent film Douglas Fairbanks as the Duke of Arnoldo, aka the Black Pirate. He infiltrates a band of pirates and then takes command of them. The 1926 adventure classic was directed by Albert Parker, a prolific and significant silent cinema actor and director.  

Another silent era swashbuckler sets sail at 8:15 p.m. April 11 with Frank Lloyd’s genre classic “The Sea Hawk.” The lavish production inspired by a Rafael Sabatini novel features Milton Sills (Errol Flynn came later) as the count turned pirate. Lloyd was a real stickler for detail and demanded “The Sea Hawk” look authentic. So those aren’t fake ships in the ocean you’ll be seeing. 

Interested in a high-society lark wherein an unfaithful husband and a carefree-party-girl daughter named Kittens (silent screen star Clara Bow, hilarious here) swallow a bitter pill when down-in-the-dumps wife and mom (Alice Joyce) steps out to party and audaciously flirts with the cad dating her own daughter? In just over one hour, 1926’s “Dancing Mothers” (a film the festival restored, on a bill with the short “The Pill Pounder”) dishes out comeuppance and liberation, illustrating how an overlooked woman starts to live her life to the fullest. The fun program is at 2 p.m. April 11. 

In need of a smile or two? “The Laurel and Hardy Show” at 10 a.m. April 13 features landmark comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in three recently restored 1928 films: “You’re Darn Tootin’,” “Two Tars” and “The Finishing Touch.”  

Did a gorilla commit murder? Some suspect it might have happened in the appropriately titled “The Gorilla,” a selection in the 2024 San Francisco Silent Film Festival. (Courtesy San Francisco Silent Film Festival)

Mystery lovers out there? Alfred Santell’s atmospheric 1927 adaptation of the three-act play “The Gorilla” is certain to delight fans of Agatha Christie and Edgar Allan Poe. It brings to the table staples of the genre: a creepy manor, a murder in said manor, a long list of suspicious suspects and two sometimes comedic investigators who arrive in the dead of a shadowy night. Add a huge gorilla blamed for the deaths, and you have a film that serves as the basis for many others. It screens at 10 a.m. on April 14. 

Film fans in love with melodramas won’t want to miss the closing night feature, “The Red Mark.” Misplaced love, a smitten executioner (you read that right) and a hidden birthmark set into motion wring-your-hands drama in this 1928 feature, which the festival restored. It screens at 8 p.m. April 14.  

For tickets ($18 to $25) and the full schedule, visit

Another local festival favorite also launches this week. The 21st annual International Ocean Film Festival, which received a record number of submissions this year, presents 34 films from April 12-14 in Cowell Theater at Fort Mason in San Francisco. In addition to the screenings, the program features panel discussions.  

The timing couldn’t be more ideal with the opening night film, “Blue Carbon: Nature’s Hidden Power,” premiering at 7 p.m. April 12 (then screening on CNN at 9 p.m. April 21, the day before Earth Day). The documentary by director Nicolas Brown (“The Serengeti Rules”) illuminates the role that carbon sequestration (a process in which carbon from the atmosphere is absorbed in a pool) plays in offsetting climate change. DJ and marine toxicologist Jayda G guides audiences on a hopscotching journey to Vietnam, Senegal, France and Florida to illustrate how blue carbon ecosystems such as salt marshes, sea grasses and mangroves are paving the way for a better tomorrow.

As a bonus, “Blue Carbon” spices things up with music from RZA and Seu Jorge. Filmmakers Jayda G, Brown and Sarah Macdonald of the independent production company Make Waves are slated to attend a Q&A on opening night. Tickets are $10 for ages 12 and under to $30 for general admission. 

Another highlight is Surf Night at 7 p.m. April 21, which bundles three short documentaries and is followed by a 9 p.m. party. The program includes the Bay Area premiere of the Alaska-set “With the Tide,” about the introduction of surfing to Tlingit teens in Yakutat, an area north of Glacier Bay; Gaby Scott’s “Zoe,” about 16-year-old Northern California power surfer Zoe Chait; and “Daughters of the Waves,” about Tahitian surfers the Fierro sisters; in particular, 20-year-old Vahine, who pursues a career on the board and takes on the iconic waves of Tahiti’s Teahupo’o region. Tickets for the films only are $10-$30; and $120-$150 for the movies and party.  

For the full lineup and to purchase tickets, visit  

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