The Art of the Benshi

Japan's Silent Film Narrators

April 16 & 17


Presented by the Yanai Initiative for Globalizing Japanese Humanities and the UCLA Film & Television Archive in partnership with the Gene Siskel Film Center, the Art of the Benshi 2024 World Tour offers audiences a rare opportunity to experience the mesmerizing artistry of three of Japan’s celebrated benshi—“movie orators” who, since the days of Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope, have been breathing life into silent film. Joined by an ensemble of musicians from Japan, these masters of their art will transport viewers back to the golden age of silent film, when every movie screening was also a live performance.

During the heyday of the benshi, more than 7,000 of these charismatic artists narrated the action in films and made silent actors speak. Their voices rang out in movie theaters across Japan, as well as in Korea and other Japanese colonies, and in Japanese-American communities in the United States. The greatest benshi were famous enough to rival the stars on screen. Now, thanks to a tour of unprecedented scale, audiences in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, and Tokyo have a chance to experience the magic of the benshi as they perform not just individually, but together with the collaborative style of performance. The Gene Siskel Film Center will present two distinct programs of classic, newly restored, and rarely seen silent films from Japan and the USA.

All performances will be in Japanese with live music and English subtitles. Program description provided by UCLA.

Tickets: $15 Gene Siskel Film Center members and SAIC students, faculty, and staff / $17 seniors and non-SAIC students / $22 general audiences / $25 two-day, members-only pass available.