Lost film by pioneer Lois Weber to premiere at Eye International Conference

The Twins (Lois Weber, 1911)

17 May 2019

The short film The Twins has been preserved as part of the Desmet collection at Eye Filmmuseum for decades, but has only recently been identified as one of the lost films from the oeuvre of Lois Weber, the first female American director, producer and screenwriter. The Twins (US, 1911) will be screened prior to The Women of Ryazan on 26th May at 20.30, with live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne.

Buy tickets

Lois Weber (1879-1939) was the most successful female filmmaker of her time and a major influence on silent cinema. She wrote and directed numerous pioneering films that fused political and social criticism with personal storylines. Lois Weber was one of the first auteurs of American cinema. As a filmmaker she was involved in all aspects of production and used film to convey her own views. She was the first American woman to direct a long feature film, The Merchant of Venice (1914), as well as being the first female American director in 1917 to have her own film studio. Eye holds the unique print of one of Weber’s masterpieces: Shoes (1916). This feature film was digitally restored in 2010 and released on DVD through Milestone Films last year by popular demand.

The Twins (US, 1911, Lois Weber & Phillips Smalley, 15’) was written and co-directed by Lois Weber, who also stars in a double role as the twin sisters. The twins are separated at birth. Whereas one sister is adopted by a wealthy family, the other one grows up in poverty and becomes a seamstress.

Although the film was held in the Desmet collection for decades it had not previously been identified. Its identification was complicated by the missing opening metres of celluloid, including the main title and the credits, as well as the fact that until recently this film was not listed in the filmographies of Lois Weber. While examining short films featuring twins and sisters during the preparations for the WSS10/Eye International Conference 2019 – Sisters, it was discovered that the film was actually one of the films from Weber’s filmography that were considered lost.

WSS10/Eye International Conference 2019 - Sisters

The screening of The Twins is part of the fifth Eye International Conference, on the theme of Sisters. Eye hosts the tenth edition of Women and the Silent Screen (WSS), a biennal international conference focusing on the presence of women in the first three decades of cinema – a far larger presence than can be presumed on the basis of film historical works and the film canon. Film specialists, filmmakers, archival specialists, curators and restorers from all over the world will gather at Eye from 25-29 May to present their research and work on the theme of Sisters.

The WSS10/Eye International Conference 2019 - Sisters starts on 25 May after the annual Meet the Archive event (previously known as Collection Day), an afternoon of presentations on recent projects relating to Eye’s collections. The full three-day conference programme includes academic panels and show-and-tell presentations on such themes as ‘Performing Sisters’, ‘Radical Feelings: Feminism, Affect, Early Cinema’ and ‘Sister(s in the) Archives’. The conference is rounded off on 29 May with a number of activities in Eye’s Collection Centre.

The programme features two keynote lectures, one by Dr Annette Förster, an independent media historian and film curator specialised in female filmmakers and actresses in the silent film period, the other one by Prof. Jacqueline Stewart (University of Chicago), who will discuss the challenges of documenting the work of women in 'race films': films with African American casts made for a segregated African American audience in the first half of the twentieth century.

Film screenings

On 26th May there will be a screening of The Women of Ryazan, a film directed by Olga Preobrazhenskaya and Ivan Pravov (RUS, 1927). The screening is accompanied by a special score written by Dutch composer Ig Henneman in 1984, and is preceded by The Twins (1911). On 25th May Roosbeef will perform live to the restored print of Filibus (Mario Roncoroni, Italy 1915). On 27th May The Lights of Old Broadway (Monta Bell, US, 1925, 35mm) will be screened with live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne. This superbly restored film was one of the most acclaimed silent film restorations at the world’s leading archival film festival Il Cinema Ritrovato in 2018.