The Nevada City Film Festival presents the world premiere of composer and multi-instrumentalist Gyan Riley’s original live score to one of the most iconic and visually enchanting films of all time – The Adventures of Prince Achmed – Friday, October 6, at the historic Nevada Theatre.
When The Adventures of Prince Achmed premiered to German audiences in 1926, it was hailed as the first full-length animated film. Taken from the tales known as the Arabian Nights, the film tells the story of a young prince tricked by a wicked sorcerer into mounting a magical, flying horse for a direct course to his own demise. Soaring headlong into a series of wondrous adventures, and joining forces with the likes of Aladdin and a fabled witch, the prince evades his fate by saving a beautiful princess and doing battle with the sorcerer’s army of monsters.
The Adventures of Prince Achmed was created by German filmmaker Lotte Reiniger, who pioneered the technique of silhouette animation – using intricate cut-out shadow puppets shot frame-by-frame against thin sheets of lead – a method she used to create over 40 fairy-tale films. This cinematic treasure has been beautifully restored with color tinting.
“Every time I work with film it makes me hyper-attentive to the way I experience cinema in all its forms,” explains Riley. “I was struck by how expressive the characters could be using her [director Lotte Reiniger] technique of manipulated cardboard and lead cutouts. The colors and subtlety of imagery are profound in this film, given the materials Reiniger had to work with. Visually it is highly ornate and often psychedelic…it was a joy to work with!”
Riley, who grew up in Nevada County, has been called by the New York Times, “a one-man American-music machine, amicably ranging across the fields of jazz, world music, and post-minimalism.” He has extensively toured internationally both as a soloist and with artists such as Julian Lage, Bill Frisell, his father Terry Riley, and Grammy-winning singer Arooj Aftab. Riley has released six albums and dozens of collaborative recordings. He has performed with Lou Reed, the San Francisco Symphony, John Zorn, Kronos Quartet, and the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra, to name a few. Recently he was featured as a performer and composer for two acclaimed PBS documentary series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick: Hemingway, and The U.S. and the Holocaust. He is currently engaged as the 2023 composer in residence at the Lou Harrison House in Joshua Tree.
Riley teases that he is mostly working with electric guitar and synthesizers with various electronics to create the commissioned score, and finding inspiration in the personalities of the characters and themes in the film.
The uniqueness of the oldest animated film, directed by a woman at the onset of cinema’s golden age, and screened at the oldest, continuously operated theater on the west coast of the US, is not lost on Riley, who says these are the reasons he accepted the invite.
“I am excited about this event, especially having it at the historic Nevada Theater. And I’m not sure I’ve ever played there…what an honor!” Thrilling, sensuous and dazzling, Prince Achmed will amaze and enthrall audiences of all ages.
WHO: Nevada City Film Festival presents One Night Only
WHAT: The Adventures of Prince Achmed with an Original Score Performed by Gyan Riley
WHEN: Friday, October 6, Doors 6pm, Show 7pm
WHERE: Historic Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad Street, Nevada City
TICKETS: $35/GA, $15/Ages 18 and Under