The director called it "docufiction" - and I can't decide if that's kind of the same or kind of opposite to yesterday's theatrical tall tale.
Something great about silent film is watching the art form get invented in front of your eyes. They made it up as they went along. This crossfade translation trick is pretty nifty, though as far as I know it never caught on. If I ever make a movie, I'll be sure to use it.