Sidewalk Film Festival 2023
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Youth Silent Film Fest 2023

Results of International Youth Silent Film Festival
featured during Sidewalk Film Festival

By Mary C. McCord, Editor Classic Film Watch

     At the 2023 Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, Composer and Organist Nathan Avakian provided the music for the screening of 10 selections from this year's International Youth Silent Film Festival (IYSFF).
     The event was held in Birmingham's historic Alabama Theatre, a 1927 movie palace, and Avakian played his original scores for these films on the theatre's Mighty Wurlitzer Organ (Opus 1783), which provides a full range of sound effects needed to accompany silent films. The event was presented by the Alabama Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society.
     The IYSFF challenges young filmmakers to create silent films to original theatre organ soundtracks composed by Avakian. This year, filmmakers 20 years old or younger chose one of the ten, three-minute scores provided by IYSFF and created their films to go along with the music, which is the reverse of the traditional film scoring process. The soundtracks fit a variety of genres, including sci-fi, mystery, noir, comedy, horror, adventure and drama.
     As Editor of this classic film website, I try to attend this silent film event at Sidewalk when offered. For me, the standout films presented this year were The Chase, which was adventurous and often comical and really highlighted the main character's athletic and stunt abilities. I also liked Who Cried Werewolf because of its surprise ending. All the films screened were very ambitious and I was amazed at the creativity and technical skills of such young filmmakers.
     Avakian announced that the IYSFF's global event will change its age policy to age 22 and younger for next year's competition.      
     Also during the event, Avakian screened and played his new composition for the 1927 silent short film, Putting Pants on Philip. This comedy was the first time Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy appeared on screen together.
     The plot revolves around Hardy's character, Piedmont Mumblethunder who is waiting for the arrival of his Scottish nephew Philip (Laurel) at a pier. Piedmont does not know what Philip looks like, but knows from a letter that Philip is very shy around women. When he meets the kilt-wearing Philip he is very embarrassed and thinks he is effeminate. Piedmont tries to make conversation with him. Gradually, Philip demonstrates that he is anything but shy around women. He really loves women and is a skirt-chaser.
     Piedmont is embarrassed by his nephew and takes Philip to a tailor to be fitted for trousers. Philip doesn't want to wear the trousers and leaves the tailor to continue pursuing a young woman he saw earlier, played by Dorothy Coburn. Catching up with her, Philip takes off his kilt to cover a mud puddle. Rejecting this act of chivalry, the woman simply leaps over the puddle and leaves. Piedmont then steps on the kilt and falls into the puddle, a good example of typical Laurel and Hardy slapstick comedy. And Avakian's soundtrack was spot on in highlighting the comedians' antics.
     The Second Hundred Years was their next film together in 1927 and marks the official pairing of the duo Laurel and Hardy. They made a total of 107 films during their career.
     Dorothy Coburn also appeared in The Second Hundred Years. She made a total of 11 films with Laurel and Hardy before her retirement in the early 1930s. She also acted as a horseback-stuntwoman in Gary Cooper and Joel McCrea westerns and as a stand-in for Ginger Rogers in several of her dancing films with Fred Astaire.
     To learn more about Avakian and his compositions, visit

















Nancy Olson Livingston