Video: A Smile for Griffith


Next week the San Francisco Silent Film Festival will present the complete 5 1/2 hour version of Abel Gance’s epic Napoleon. It is truly a singular event: Due to the expense, technical challenges, and complicated rights issues involved, no screenings are planned for any other American city. This monumental event is being presented by  SFSFF in association with American Zoetrope, The Film Preserve, Photoplay Productions, and the British Film Institute.

This full version of Napoleon is restored by legendary film historian and filmmaker Kevin Brownlow, whose epic documentary D.W. Griffith: Father of Film (1993) is available on Fandor. Directed by Brownlow and David Gill, the film tells the story of one of cinema’s most monumental figures, D.W. Griffith. It shares Griffiths’ life and legacy through biographical narration, interviews, and behind-the-scenes looks at his movies.

Of the vast array of material presented in this film, most fascinating are the moments where they analyze Griffith’s filmmaking, revealing his innovative techniques and how he brought them into being. Here is an edited and recontextualized compilation of those sequences distilled from the longform biography of this legendary artist.

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