30 March, 2011

BIFF 2011 - Amos Vogel, Terry Gilliam, Industry Networking & a Hobo with a Shotgun

Blogger: Lisa Brook, Bradford City of Film / Leeds Film Festival / Fanomenon

Saying that film festivals are "a chance to experience cinema that you otherwise might not see" is both the biggest appeal of film festivals for me and a phrase that has become cliché.

But I repeat that tenet to audiences, press, friends, family, and anyone who will listen to my obsession. Yes, it's about cinema, but BIFF 2011 reminded me that film festivals are about experiences that you cannot get anywhere else; films and frolic in a hazy festival bubble.

With that in mind, my planned list of film reviews is now something a bit different: I give you four BIFF experiences that I probably wouldn't encounter anywhere else in quite the same way as here in Bradford, the first UNESCO City of Film.

1. Being shocked by films screened at a film society that I’d previously never heard of.

Film can and should expose us to anything and everything outside our individual realities. I’m drawn to cinema that subverts, challenges, and is at times difficult to watch, and while this often results in an unhealthy diet of horror and extreme cinema, at BIFF I took a journey into another kind of subversive cinema.

Amos Vogel and the subversive Cinema 16 society was something I knew very little about, and in the festival's tribute to them, I discovered a programme of short films that is as shocking and relevant today as it must have been when the films first screened over half a century ago.

BIFF 2011 Day 2

The disturbing dreamlike sequences appealed to me as a David Lynch fan, but the alarming footage of animal slaughter in the dingy abattoirs of Paris brought home that horror exists in the real world, and when a film exposes something both true and horrific, it has the power to shock us to the core.

2. Cheering at 1am with a hundred other gore-hounds as Rutger Hauer asserts that saving the world with a shotgun is "the only way I know how".

How did a film that began as a fake trailer for Tarantino and Rodriguez's Grindhouse double-bill, manage to secure Rutger Hauer (Bladerunner, and genre cinema legend) as its lead - a tramp? Genius casting.

Hobo With a Shotgun

Those of us at the midnight screening of Hobo with a Shotgun were lucky enough to experience the utterly maniacal, blood-soaked, downright offensive yet positively joyous vigilante Hauer.

This is the ONLY film I have ever seen that I could genuinely watch again immediately after, despite it’s early-hours-of-the-morning credit roll. I will be quoting it for weeks, and I urge you to seek it out so you too can experience the mayhem, and feel the power of Hauer!

3. Opening the back door to the panel event at which I'm working, to see Terry Gilliam staring back at me.

Helping to organise a panel on low and no-budget filmmaking which was programmed at exactly the same time as the sold out Terry Gilliam Screentalk was naturally a concern, but one I needn’t have worried about. The draw of industry figures like Nik Powell (Oscar-winning producer of The Crying Game) and Marc Price (director of the £45 zombie movie Colin which has secured distribution around the world) brought a full-house to our event, regardless.

BIFF 2011 Day 3

About an hour in, after we’d considered inventive ways of coming up with a budget (including remortgaging houses: very hard times...) and how to avoid trouble with the police during a shoot (some interesting stories there...) I opened the back door to check that everything was ready for the networking session, and Terry Gilliam was standing on the other side.

I managed not to ask him what he was doing here, (a wander during the screening of Time Bandits, in case you were wondering), and heads began to turn as in he came.

BIFF 2011 Day 3

Confirming all reports that he is indeed a genuinely lovely man, Terry got involved with our little event, and was happy to chat to everybody before making it back to Pictureville for his Screentalk. What a guy! Thank you, BIFF, and thank you, Terry. A serendipitous occurrence for everyone who passed up Terry’s Screentalk to attend. Amazing.

4. Going into Pictureville Bar knowing there will be someone who wants to talk about how "their BIFF" is going.

Festivals are personal. Making a selection from 200 films screened this year means you can tailor your own experience, and that itself is part of the festival experience.

To see so many people planning their festival, perusing brochures, or with laptops out frantically blogging and tweeting, and to talk to them about how you’re doing exactly the same gives a festival its sense of community. We may fall in love with film together, but the individual experience of BIFF 2011 will always be mine.

25 March, 2011

BIFF 2011 Day 3 Part 3 - Terry Gilliam Screentalk + Time Bandits

Blogger: James Cross, Front of House

BIFF 2011 Day 3 - Tony Earnshaw and Terry Gilliam

This was the hot ticket event of the festival, a sell out with a waiting list a mile long. But why is Terry Gilliam in such demand? I saw the man arrive outside the Museum where he was instantly mobbed by adoring fans, fans of all ages, and this is where his success lies; he has managed to cross the allusive generation gap.

BIFF 2011 Day 3 - Terry Gilliam in Bradford, City of Film

As a child, I remember sitting with my parents and shouting at the TV "We are the knights who say... NEE", and then as a teenager, watching Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Terry Gilliam’s résumé is a powerhouse of top talent, not just in the USA but here in England. A transatlantic success, BAFTA winner, and now Bradford International Film Festival Fellow, we gladly welcomed him.

BIFF 2011 Day 3

Before the screentalk, we were treated to a screening of Time Bandits - a classic family film, children enjoy the fantasy and the adults enjoy the ‘in-jokes’. If you haven’t seen it, WHY NOT? Time Bandits was the film made by Terry when he couldn’t get the funding to make Brazil and even had a hard time distributing it.

On the back of the success of Time Bandits he managed to complete Brazil, although the release wasn’t without its own drama. Still, Time Bandits stands the test of time 30 years on.

The feature was followed by Gilliam’s hilarious new animated short The Miracle of Flight, a testament to his skill even in the early days.

BIFF 2011 Day 3

Last, but certainly not least - in fact, the reason for this sold out auditorium - Tony Earshaw, BIFF's Artistic Director, interviewed the film maverick and presented him with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Watch this video, then tell us your favourite Gilliam moments of the evening (or of his career).

See more fantastic photos of Terry on the Museum's Flick channel.

BIFF 2011 Day 3 Part 2 - Putty Hill Review

Blogger: Greg Spencer, Front of House

Putty Hill

Putty Hill is based around the friends and family of a teenager who committed suicide, and how they deal with the incident. Its framing differs somewhat from mainstream narrative conventions, and the apparently improvised interviews with each of the characters leave you feeling uncertain as to which parts of the film are truth, and which are fiction. You could watch the film a thousand times and still not know.

Putty Hill 2

I'm not sure if this is a good thing as you don't quite know where you stand with the characters and the events taking place. How emotionally appealing can a film be when you don't know what to believe?

Having said that, if the film is fictitious, then the actors did a great job. Also to be admired is how director Matthew Porterfield shoots the environment in which the characters live, and the way Baltimore looks on-screen - at one time a desolate wasteland, and others, quite beautiful.

BIFF 2011 Day 3 Part 1 - Shine Shorts, Northern Noir and a Zombie Romance

Blogger: James Cross, Front of House

Day three of BIFF, and what an actioned packed day it was! I couldn't possibly have gone to all the midnight screenings, industry seminars and the myriad screenings and events, but here's what I did see:

Nowhere Elsewhere

Nowhere Elsewhere

Shine Award Jury Screening

I have a great sense of nostalgia for Shine - it was the first ever film festival strand I attended in 2003, and I'm pleased to say it still delivers the same variety and quality as always. As with the Amos Vogel strand, even if you don't enjoy a film, you know there is another contender just around the corner.

Shorts are not often given proper recognition, and showcases such as the Shine Awards reveal that they are a craft in their own right, distinct from features, providing a rare opportunity to watch emerging talent. Curated by Alissa Juvan, this year the Awards accepted submissions from outside Europe, with a separate screening dedicated to European Shorts.

Annick Blanc and Alissa Juvan

Annick Blanc and Alissa Juvan

Annick Blanc, Canadian Director of Nowhere Elsewhere was in attendance to introduce her short before jetting off to Hong Kong, then France to showcase her film - one of my top picks for the award along with A Gentle Push. Both are beautifully shot, well constructed pieces.

The Shine Awards are being screened again at Otley Courthouse on Sunday 27 March, and a screening plus the award presentation will take place at the Museum on Sunday at 6pm.

Innocent Crimes

Innocent Crimes

This film was part of the Northern Showcase strand, which was established to exhibit the best in low budget films from the North, and to give then the recognition they rightly deserve.

Innocent Crimes, introduced by Director Jonathan Green and Producer Chris Hees, shows how far £10,000 can go. Frankly, it wasn't my cup of tea, I thought the story and acting were heavy handed at times, and I didn't enjoy the out of focus shots.

Innocent Crimes was meant to be in the style of a noir; it lacked distinctive contrast lighting, quick-witted dialogue, and the developed female characters normally associated with the genre. The moments which worked for me were those of humour and adventure. A valiant attempt, but somewhat misses the mark - I would love to hear what other people thought.

Harold's Going Stiff

Harold's Going Stiff

To quote a friend

"Harold's Going Stiff is everything that is right with low budget filmmaking."

Innovative, funny, and ingenious, Harold's... shows that a low budget is no excuse for a poorly crafted film. Beautifully shot and nicely paced, but the real achievement is the performances. It may be a zombie film, but first and foremost it is a romance.

The two leads have a dynamic relationship as pensioner Harold (Stan Rowe) the sufferer of an advancing neurological disease which causes him to be zombie-like, and his bubbly nurse Penny (Sarah Spencer). Their relationship flourishes in the midst of zombie-hunters, medical tests, and despite the generation gap.

The support cast must also be given kudos; the vigilante zombie-hunters are central to some of the funniest moments in the film, but are not without drama. One of my favourite films of the festival so far, well done to all involved.

23 March, 2011

Why Would a Film Festival Bother with Television?

Blogger: Kate Dunn, Curatorial Assistant - Television

Every year, TV Heaven - our public television archive - screens a complementary schedule of programmes during Bradford International Film Festival. So why does a festival that celebrates film bother with television?

The relationship between film and television has historically been a competitive one. Following the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953, the percentage of British households owning a television set leapt from 30% to around 89% by the end of the decade. In response, film studios launched a widescreen, full-colour attack on the black and white upstart, with lavish historical epics like The Ten Commandments (1956, Dir. Cecil B DeMile) and Ben-Hur (1959, Dir: William Wyler) tempting people out of their living rooms and back into cinemas.

Despite - or perhaps because of - competition for audiences, film and television have also influenced each other in very positive ways, by nurturing and sharing creative talent and ambition.

Intimate Contact

Claire Bloom in 'Intimate Contact', courtesy of ITV / Rex Features

Many well-known film stars, directors and writers cut their creative teeth on television projects, and TV continues to attract talent from the silver screen. Because a television series tends to offer a larger canvas than a feature film, film directors and producers have often turned to TV for epic projects, including the likes of Steven Spielberg (producer of Band of Brothers and The Pacific among many others) and Martin Scorsese (Boardwalk Empire), and if you want to look at the full scope of a film star's career, chances are you will have to look to television at some point.

The TV Heaven schedule for this years' Film Festival features many a big screen name, including James Mason, Virginia McKenna, and Claire Bloom, recipient of our Lifetime Achievement Award.

Brideshead Revisited

Claire Bloom in 'Brideshead Revisited', courtesy of ITV / Rex Features

To commemorate the occasion, TV Heaven will be screening some of the actress' greatest television work, including the ground-breaking four-part drama, Intimate Contact, which was among the first to realistically portray the impact of AIDs on patients and their families. We will also be showing a 1961 adaptation of Anna Karenina - lost in the depths of the BBC archives until 2009 - and an episode of Granada Televisions' gorgeous 1981 adaptation of Brideshead Revisited.

These last two programmes show another shared trait of film and television – they tend to look to the same sources for inspiration.

British entertainment is littered with television and film adaptations of the same plays, novels and short stories, and it was natural choice for us to fill the rest of this year's TV Heaven line-up with other great literary adaptations.

Dr Fischer of Geneva

'Dr Fischer of Geneva', courtesy of BBC

These include: Dr Fischer of Geneva (BBC, 1984) an excellent version of Graham Greene's darkly satirical novel featuring James Mason's last ever performance; A Passage to India (BBC, 1965) an adaptation of E M Forster's novel directed by Waris Hussain; and a double-dose of Jonathan Miller with Alice in Wonderland (BBC, 1966) and Whistle and I'll Come to You (BBC, 1968).

Alice in Wonderland

'Alice in Wonderland', courtesy of BBC

Not only are Alice... and Whistle... wonderful adaptations of Lewis Carroll's classic children's fantasy and an M. R. James ghost story, but they also highlight television's a taste for the cinematic.

Television drama in particular has often been inspired by the look and feel of film, be it epic narratives, film-led production techniques, or experiments with form and style. Miller's adaptations of Alice... and Whistle... are both visually stunning, sharing an ethereal, gloomy beauty that would not look out of place on the big screen. Television drama like this exhibits huge ambition and a visual flair that is barely contained by the small screen it is made for.

Whistle and I'll Come to you

'Whistle and I'll Come to You', courtesy of BBC

Cinema and television are not opposing media forces. They are often seen as competitors because they share an audience, but they also share creative drive and talent. Any competition between the two has ultimately furthered the cause of each, encouraging both media to push the boundaries, to be ambitious, and we the audience have reaped the benefits.

During this year's Bradford International Film Festival I can highly recommend visiting TV Heaven and exploring the best cinema that British television has to offer.

22 March, 2011

BIFF 2011 Day 2

Blogger: James Cross, Front of House

Continuing on my film odyssey, where I watch football, fantasy, avante garde film, and a drunk man sings A Whole New World.

Kick Off

Kick Off UK Premiere

This documentary follows the Austrian homeless soccer team competing at the 2008 Homeless World Cup in Australia. These men, all of who have been homeless and addicts of one sort or another, are playing to restore their faith in themselves. Each have their own stories, but as one of the team members comments "it's the same stories", of isolation, desperation, hopelessness, and the desire for redemption.

Although Kick Off doesn't exploit the story to its full potential, the human-interest appeal of the film's characters carries you through to the end. I was left wondering "What will happen to these people, whose sense of self is so intertwined with this tournament, now that it is over?"

Kick Off screened for a second time on Sunday 20th March, did anyone else watch this film? Let me know what you thought.



Terry Gilliam has always toyed with the surreal, but with Tideland he took a far more sinister turn. Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland) is the daughter of a dead-beat rocker (Jeff Bridges) and self-obsessed junkie (Jennifer Tilly), who spends her childhood cooking up heroin for mum and dad. When her mother ODs, Jeliza-Rose is whisked away by her father to grandma's abandoned farmhouse house in the deep south of America. When her father goes 'on vacation' (takes an overdose) we find ourselves pulled into Jeliza-Rose's fantasy world. References to Alice in Wonderland mix with a healthy dose of the macabre to highlight Gilliam's convention-defying sensibilities. I just hope I don't meet his inner child...

BIFF 2011 Day 2

Amos Vogel Part 1: Cinema 16

This has been my favourite strand of the festival so far. The session was dedicated to a selection of short films representative of Amos Vogel's work. Screened at Impressions Gallery, the atmosphere was amazing. Sitting on a couch with an old projector clacking away behind me; this is DIY film exhibition at its best.

Tom Vincent introduced the session explaining that the aims of Bradford International Film Festival are very much the same as those of Vogel's Cinema 16 film society: to screen films you can't see anywhere else. This is certainly true of the innovative and thought provoking films that were shown here today, and one of the most intriguing aspects was to examine how the films had aged 50 years on.

BIFF 2011 Day 2

The intermission provided an opportunity for the audience to discuss the films, and as we stood outside in Bradford's Centenary Square, currently undergoing some regeneration, a passing drunken man serenaded me with A Whole New World, which definitely added to the overall experience). I won't be missing Amos Vogel: Part 2 on Friday night, a selection of modern films created with the Cinema 16 aesthetic in mind. Will I see you there?

21 March, 2011

Picture a Museum Day 2011

Blogger: Emma James, Web Content Coordinator

Thursday 17 March was the very first global Picture a Museum Day - the purpose of which was to give people behind-the-scenes access to the world's museums and galleries through Flickr and Twitter.

What a success! The MuseumPics Flickr group now has more than 500 members. Institutions and individuals from across the globe have shared over 6,000 photographs of art, objects, people and spaces from some of the world's best cultural destinations.

Small Object Store in Insight Collections and Research Centre

Thursday also saw people using their smart phones to post photographs to Twitter using the #MuseumPics hashtag, and days later, it's still generating quite a bit of traffic - another coup for collaborative content creation through social media.

Photographic Apparatus

Let's hope the day becomes an annual fixture on the museum calendar. Here's a selection of our photographs from the day - see the rest on our Flickr channel, or go straight to the MuseumPics group to see images from around the world.

Large Object Store in Insight Collections and Research CentreDaily Herald Collection in Insight Collections and Research CentreLarge Object Store in Insight Collections and Research CentreLibrary in Insight Collections and Research Centre

18 March, 2011

BIFF 2011 Day 1

Well, the film festival is in full swing now, and there's lots going on this weekend, including Q&As from Jim Loach (Oranges & Sunshine), Marcin Wrona (The Christening) and the cast and crew of Blooded tonight, followed by the Terry Gilliam Screentalk and the Bradford After Dark mini horror-fest in collaboration with Celluloid Screams tomorrow. On Sunday, Gaylen Ross (former actress turned director) will be here with her new documentary Killing Kasztner, which I hear is incredible.

There's so much going on, that I've enlisted the help of Museum staff and festival goers to review some of the events and film screenings they've been enjoying (or not!) Yesterday you heard from Ben Eagle, BIFF Producer, and now - yesterday's film discoveries from James Cross, box office pro and all round helpful chap.

Blogger: James Cross, Front of House

Yesterday, the festival started in earnest, and it was nice to see some familiar faces along with some new ones. Best of all was being able to compare notes with that special breed of film fan, willing to spend much of the next 10 days sitting in a dark room. On to the films...



The first in the Claire Bloom retrospective, this film is a perfect example of art mirroring life. Charlie Chapin plays Calvero, a music hall performing 'tramp' clown, who rescues dancer Terry (Claire Bloom) from an attempted suicide. Calvero then nurses Terry back to health, after her inexplicable paralysis. By enthusing and encouraging Terry to seek and achieve her dream of becoming a prima donna ballerina, he realises that his own career and talents are waning.

This is almost a direct comparison between Chaplin and Bloom, because Limelight was his self-referential swan song and her big break. Both leads show what tremendous talent and chemistry they have; people were crying as they left the auditorium.


Film as a Subversive Art: Amos Vogel and Cinema 16

A brilliant introduction to Amos Vogel and the Cinema 16 film society, especially if you are as uninformed as me. Although not cinematically brilliant, the story and personality of Amos Vogel keeps you engaged. He's tried to be "sand in the machinery of the world" his whole life, and as a result turned the New York film scene on its head.

Despite Vogel's many successes, you are left with a slight feeling of missed opportunity and longing as he tells of the demise of Cinema 16. A great introduction to an irrepressible character.

Double Bill: Disfarmer: A Portrait of America + An American Journey

It's easy to see why these two films were programmed together, as both focus on photographers who felt isolated from the culture they documented, and the consequences of their work. I will try not to give too much away as this duo is repeated on Monday 21 March.


Disfarmer: A Portrait of America

This intriguing story follows the discovery and subsequent selling of odd-ball Mike Disfarmer's (aka Mike Meyers) portrait photography from the depression era of his local farm community. It wasn't until 1974, when photographer Peter Miller found the prints and sent them to New York, that Mike Disfarmer was 'discovered'.

What ensues is a tale that gradually pulls you in as the townspeople are amazed and bewildered at the importance of his work, and the wider photographic community stirs. Small town meets big city.

An American Journey

We were lucky enough to be joined by the film's Director, Philippe Séclier, who introduced his film and stayed for a brief Q&A afterwards. In 1958, Swiss-born Robert Frank first published The Americans, his photographic investigation of the American way of life. 50 years later Philippe Séclier retraced Robert Frank's steps. On this odyssey we learn about the differences in culture 50 years on, the characters portrayed in the book, and its importance in photographic and art history.

What comes across, not only in the film but in the way Philippe talks about his efforts, is that An American Journey is a personal one. Philippe says that Robert Frank was him 50 years ago, travelling and exploring across an unfamiliar culture. I would definitely recommend this to any photography fans.

17 March, 2011

BIFF 2011 Opening Night Gala

Blogger: Ben Eagle, BIFF Producer

BIFF 2011 Opening Night

The opening night of any large-scale event is always going to be a big deal, and last night certainly wasn't an exception for the BIFF team. We were delighted to be opening with Woody Allen's latest, featuring a who's who of Hollywood, and although due to working commitments the cast couldn't be in Bradford, the evening was still rich with glitz and glamour.

BIFF 2011 Opening Night

There were canapés and fine wine on offer for the invited audience who all seemed to thoroughly enjoy the night. Following that, there was a 9pm screening for delegates and members of the public, which was introduced by Artistic Director Tony Earnshaw.

BIFF 2011 Opening Night

And now, the fun really begins! The 27th March seems a long way off, and with almost 200 films and events between now and then, I sincerely hope you enjoy the 17th BIFF.

Here's a selection of photos from the Opening Night Gala - you can see them all in our Bradford International Film Festival 2011 Flickr set - and there's more to come.

BIFF 2011 Opening NightBIFF 2011 Opening NightBIFF 2011 Opening NightBIFF 2011 Opening NightBIFF 2011 Opening NightBIFF 2011 Opening NightBIFF 2011 Opening NightBIFF 2011 Opening NightBIFF 2011 Opening Night

03 March, 2011

Interview: Neil Young Talks Film Festivals

Blogger: Greg Spencer

The name Neil Young may not be familiar to you, but as the International Consultant for Bradford International Film Festival, he is one of the people responsible for selecting the films screened at BIFF. I caught up with him to find out what it means to be a film festival programmer.

Greg: How many film festivals do you attend each year and why do you choose those particular festivals?

Neil: Last year I attended fourteen festivals - including Bradford - and this figure is average for my attendances over the last five years or so. I visited Tromsø in Norway, Rotterdam, Berlin, Bradford, Leicester (British Silent Film Festival), Crossing Europe in Linz, IndieLisboa in Lisbon, Edinburgh, Wroclaw in Poland, San Sebastian in Spain, Reykjavik, Vienna, Leeds and Ljubljana. I also had a day trip to London Film Festival to catch a single picture, but such a fleeting visit hardly counts as 'attendance'.

Some of these festivals I work with in a programming capacity, where I'll suggest films for the programmes, then attend to introduce the films or lead a Q&A. Tromsø, Linz, Lisbon, Edinburgh, Vienna and Ljubljana fall into that category (though I'm no longer connected with Edinburgh). Of the others, some are certain long-established and very big events like Rotterdam, Berlin and San Sebastian, which are of particular interest from a programming and journalistic capacity as they have so many world and/or European premieres. Others - such as Wroclaw and Reykjavik, I visited for the first time last year on the basis of recommendations from friends and colleagues, and because the cities themselves looked worth exploring (I'd never been to Poland or Iceland before).

Over the last 10 years I've built up a core list of festivals which I visit every year (or try to) but I'm always on the lookout for new places to go. If I'm lucky I might get invited by a festival, which means they will cover the hotel costs and maybe the transportation. If an invitation doesn't clash with an existing commitment, I'll probably take it up - unless I've heard negative reports about the event or its location. For example, in November I'll be on the jury of a festival in Skopje, Macedonia, and this will be my first time in that country. I'm expanding my film-festival attendance at the moment and might make it to 16 or more festivals during 2011, if I'm lucky.

Alan Bennett and Neil Young

Neil Young in conversation with Alan Bennet at BIFF 2007

Greg: Based on your vast knowledge and experience, would you say that the overall quality of the films screened at festivals has improved or declined in recent years?

Neil: Commenting about overall quality is tricky, because there are so many hundreds of films being made and screened all over the world every year, and festivals are looking for the best and most interesting of these. Looking back at my first experience at the Berlinale in 2002 (Berlin International Film Festival, one of the big three in Europe alongside Cannes and Venice), I watched 33 films, walked out of three, and considered 7 especially noteworthy. This year I watched 32 films, had two walkouts, and found 10 noteworthy films. Not a scientific study, of course, and it could be that I've become more skilled at selecting movies to watch, but I don't think we can say that festival films are "getting worse". Of course, that's what many commentators say, and have been saying for 100 years now. Geographically, festivals have become more adventurous and eclectic, and it's no longer so rare to come across a new film from, say, Kazakhstan or Paraguay.

Greg: How do the British festivals compare to the other European ones that you have attended?

Neil: Of course I'm naturally biased when it comes to Bradford. Historically the major British festivals have never really had the international profile of Europe's big three, or of major North American events such as Toronto or Sundance, and it's a struggle for UK festivals to get prominent world-premieres for anything other than British films.

You'll see all the major new films each year at British festivals, of course, plus dozens of smaller discoveries, but it's surprisingly unusual to find programmers from European festivals who will make time in their schedules to go to the long-running film festivals at Edinburgh or London. This is partly because most other European countries have always had one big festival which dominates, and which gets the most coverage, support and funding - Cannes, Berlin, San Sebastian, Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, Locarno in Switzerland, and so on - whereas in Britain there's never really been one clear leader which attains international must-visit status.

Greg: Very interesting. I wonder if London Film Festival will become more prominent and a major player alongside Cannes and Berlin.

Neil: Well, it's not really a Bradford Film Festival person's place to comment on the future fate or fortunes of London Film Festival! We wish them all the best.

Greg: I'd like to ask about the BIFF strand that most concerns you which is Uncharted States of America. How does the selection process work, what criteria do you use, and how do you decide whether a film is suitable for the audience?

Neil: I contribute a hefty chunk of Moviedrome, at least 20 titles in that section each year. Uncharted is a smaller section but I'm pretty much responsible for all of it.

I look for very low-budget features and documentaries, preferably with directors and casts which are new to me, and I have a special interest in films which show unexposed corners of the USA. So many movies from that country are set and shot in Los Angeles, New York or the bigger metropolitan areas, but there has been a long tradition of what used to be called 'regional cinema' back in the 1970s and early 80s, taking us off the beaten track, as it were.

I look for films at the festivals I attend and request DVDs of interesting-sounding contenders which I either hear about or stumble across by trawling websites of the smaller American festivals - there's a network of underground film festivals over there which always have plenty of imaginative movies shot on the thinnest of shoestrings. In most cases, I rely on my own taste and judgement - but I'm aware that the films are playing to paying audiences, so I do take into account what it's reasonable to expect the public to spend their time and money on. With the more experimental or avant-garde material, I tend to concentrate on shorter running-times, perhaps 60-80 minutes, and look for documentaries dealing with relatively accessible subject-matter.

Greg: What do you think is special about film festivals? The shared experience, meeting new people, or discovering exciting new films?

Neil: Film festivals are appealing for several reasons, the most obvious being the films; the chance to see many films in a day, over the course of several days, and of a much greater variety than one would be able to see in any day or week's cinema attendance, even in a big city; ideally featuring a mixture of new (sometimes brand new) and archive materials, intelligently curated and professionally presented.

Then there's the communal aspect. You are always seeing people you know and meeting new people, all of whom share your interest in film and, hopefully, your hunger to discover the next delight. There's also the chance to discuss the films and wider cinema culture between and after the movies, often in a foreign or exotic city which is worthwhile visiting in its own right. And if you get to meet a film-maker or performer, so much the better - often smaller festivals are best for this, while at the really big jamborees such access is very heavily restricted.

Alex Cox, Neil Young and Shine Short Film Award Winner Harry Wootliff

Alex Cox and Neil Young with Shine Short Film Award Winner Harry Wootliff

Greg: What can someone who is coming to BIFF for the first time expect?

Neil: A first-time visitor to BIFF should plunge in and take a chance on movies they might know nothing about at all, from a director - or even a country - whose films are unfamiliar to them. I'd strongly advise dipping into the retrospectives and archival screenings, as it's increasingly rare to see classic films shown from prints on big screens in top-quality projection conditions, which is what you are guaranteed to get at Bradford (though on occasion films have to be shown from digital sources).

Attending a film festival in person should be a social activity - chat about the films you've seen or are planning to see with fellow attendees, and take suggestions or recommendations. Anyone coming to BIFF, whether it's for the first or for the 16th time, will stumble across films that will startle and dazzle them - and maybe one or two that make them wonder why on earth they were selected! One of the great things about festivals is that everyone will have their own opinions about everything they see.

Greg: What has been your favourite festival moment in all the years you've been doing this job?

Neil: Two that stand out are James Benning's great masterpiece Casting a Glance at Bradford in 2008, when we had various problems with the 16mm projector, and I had to keep going out from the booth to beg the audience's patience - everybody stayed, and when the film finally came on it was quite magical, if nerve-shredding, to watch it unfold, and dreading a recurrence of the glitch any second.

Much more recently, there was the prize-giving at Rotterdam in January, which took place in the beautiful 1960s trashy splendour of the Luxor cinema (all mirrors and light bulbs on the walls), and featured a live electric-guitar performance from Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo - his guitar suspended from the ceiling - accompanying two 10-minute Japanese experimental films shown from a 16mm projector in the middle of the auditorium.

Straight after, they announced that my favourite film of the festival, Sergio Caballero's unclassifiable art-film spoof Finisterrae had (against all expectations) won one of the festival's three equal-top awards, the Tigers.

Greg: Finally, have you seen any films this year that you expect to be big hits or you would strongly recommend?

Neil: Finisterrae would certainly be one of the films I'd advise you to keep an eye out for later in the year - I do hope it comes to the Museum, perhaps for BIFF 2012...

Another must-see I spotted too late for BIFF 2011 had its world premiere in competition at Berlin a couple of weeks back - it's Alexander Mindadze's thrillingly visceral Chernobyl drama Innocent Saturday (think Cloverfield, with the reactor instead of the monster), which will hopefully get plenty of exposure in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the explosion in April. For my money, it's a masterpiece.

See you at BIFF.

01 March, 2011

Visit to the André Kertész Exhibtion at the Jeu de Paume, Paris

Blogger: Ruth Haycock, Senior Exhibitions & Partnerships Organiser
Ruth and Rebecca from our Exhibitions team were lucky enough to fly to Paris last month to take in the André Kertész exhibition at the Jeu De Paume, and while their visit was purely for pleasure, they kindly agreed to tell me about the trip for the Museum blog.
Day One: Saturday 5th February
After a landslide near Halifax and a delayed flight for two and a half hours, we arrived in Paris only to attend an exhibition that had closed a week early - not a hugely successful start!
We did manage to find Le Bal and an exhibition titled Five Strange Family Albums, showing works by Erik Kessels, Emmet Gowin, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Alessandra Sanguinetti and Sadie Benning. It was an interesting exploration of the family album, where the uneasy and unnerving undercurrents of relationships was explored.
Following a fairly long day, we wandered through the streets of Montmartre, stumbling into a rather lovely restaurant where, in the style of Gilbert and George, we ate the same food, and drank the same wine - except that Rebecca had an extra glass!
Day Two: Sunday 6th February
We rose early about 8am so we could get to the André Kertész exhibition. We arrived at the Jeu De Paume before the doors opened. This was the reason we'd made the journey to Paris and it being the last day of the exhibition we didn't want to take any chances. Six hours later we emerged from the gallery and there was still a long queue of people waiting to get in which was really surprising, yet encouraging to see that a solo show was pulling in such huge crowds.
Jeu de Paume Crowd
The exhibition covered three main periods of his life: Hungary, Paris and New York. It was fascinating and we both realised that Kertész had a possible obsession with legs, particularly amputated ones, and prosthetic limbs or parts of mannequins - I'm sure there's a thesis in there somewhere!
Opposite Jeu De Paume was a shop selling a beautiful array of men's hats, and in homage to Eugene Atget's Lichtbilder (1930)
'Lichtbilder' 1930 Eugene Atget
we took this photograph:
Rebecca & Ruth's Hats
In the same vein we took a shadow portrait, as Kertész pictured himself in shadow on a number of occasions.
Untitled 12th December 1979, 1979. André Kertész
Untitled, 12 December 1979 (1979). André Kertész
Rebecca & Ruth's Shadows
Later in the afternoon we went to Petit Palais to see 100 Photos by Pierre and Alexandra Boulat for Press Freedom. This again was a popular exhibition although the curation and exhibition design was a little disorientating. The interpretation and feel of the exhibition would have perhaps been more successful if father and daughter had been shown independent of each other.
If you want to see original material by André Kertész and Eugene Atget you can visit The Lives of Great Photographers here from 15 April – 5 September 2011, and The Art of Arrangements: Photography and the Still Life Tradition will tour from early 2012.