Silent Clowns Film Series

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At the Silent Clowns Film Series, we celebrate comedic history and the brilliant performers of the past. However, we are fully aware that these films often include offensive content. At the beginning of the twentieth century, American culture was rife with racism, sexism, and virtually every other type of prejudice one can imagine. These sentiments appear regularly within the films of the time.

As film historians and archivists, we must consider the negative impact of these films. On the one hand, we acknowledge the danger in presenting this material at the expense of disenfranchised groups. On the other hand, we also believe there is a danger in forgetting what was the norm just a century ago, lest history repeat itself.

These films are a window into the time of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents that show how problematic things were then. Forgetting the attitudes of these times might make it easier for us to ignore the systemic prejudice that pervades today, and easier for us to think we have done enough.

We can enjoy the humor, the athleticism, and the art of these performers, but it is important to do so in a conscious way. When we do that, we can appreciate these films as a glimpse into the growth of an art form.

In programming and presenting our shows, we are acutely sensitive to these matters. We strive to make our programs accessible to all by providing appropriate context in our introductions and opening a dialogue about the films in our Q&A sessions with the audience. As we look at the evolution of film humor, we must also look at the evolution of cultural prejudice and take steps to ensure that this part of history stays in the past.