Metro Weekly

Editor’s Pick: AFI Silver’s Silent Cinema Showcase

AFI's "Cinema's First Nasty Women" are three programs of rarely-seen shorts from the silent era.

AFI Silent Cinema Showcase: What's The World Coming To
AFI Silent Cinema Showcase: What’s The World Coming To

Spanning roughly 30 years, the silent era began in the late 1890s, shortly after the invention of the movie camera, which gave rise to the Cinematic arts as well as to the film industry and national film centers around the world, including Hollywood.

The era came to an abrupt end in the late 1920s with the rapid switch to talkies, brought about by advances in sound-on-film technology, helping to usher in Hollywood’s Golden Age.

“Silent filmmaking was an art form unto itself, one that sound films may have replaced, but did not necessarily surpass,” AFI curators assert in a release announcing this year’s Silent Cinema Showcase, touted as one of the largest of its kind in North America.

AFI Silent Cinema Showcase: Laughing Gas
AFI Silent Cinema Showcase: Laughing Gas

The most noteworthy aspect of the 2022 showcase are three programs of rarely-seen short films starring lesser-known female performers, including Sarah Duhamel, Edna “Billy” Foster, Little Chrysia, Minnie Devereaux, and Texas Guinan.

Collectively dubbed “Cinema’s First Nasty Women,” the AFI’s official description notes that the films capture the women working to “organize labor strikes, engage in rough ‘n’ tumble slapstick comedy, and assume a rogues’ gallery of playful identities that joyously dismantle gender binaries and sexual norms.”

What’s more, these films will screen to newly commissioned, recorded scores in a wide range of styles from composers, “nearly all of [whom] are women or nonbinary, and many are Black, Indigenous, and people of color.”

The programs include:

“Doubles/Doppelgangers,” a grouping of nine international films, half from France, all exploring the narrative trope of the double using inventive, cinematic ways “more spectacular, comedic, and convincing than ever before,” at least at the time of their creation a century ago. Saturday, Nov. 12, and Sunday, Nov. 13, at 11 a.m., and Thursday, Nov. 17, at 5 p.m.

“Gender Adventures” is an all-American-made program offering evidence that fluid and alternate gender expressions “are not so new,” given that the newest short in the bunch — titled What’s the World Coming to? — dates to 1926, with the other four predating that by roughly a decade. Saturday, Nov. 19, at 11 a.m., and Monday, Nov. 21, through Wednesday, Nov. 23, at 5 p.m.

The Silent Cinema Showcase runs to November 23. AFI Silver Theatre is at 8633 Colesville Road in Silver Spring. Tickets are $8 for the three “Nasty Women” programs, $15 to $20 each for other Silent Cinema Showcase programs, or $175 for a pass to every film in the showcase. Visit or call 301-495-6720.

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