Niles-Maine District Library

Bradford International Film Festival!

While I was on vacation recently, I attended the first days of the Bradford International Film Festival (BIFF) in Bradford, UK in the Yorkshire region of England.  The festival is sponsored by and held at the National Media Museum…which is one of the most visited museums in England outside of London.  Bradford itself has always been known for film…causing UNESCO to give Bradford the firstUNESCO City of Film” designation.  How did I find out about this relatively small festival?  Well, one of my favorite travelogue books is Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson, where Bryson tours his adopted homeland of Great Britain one more time before he moves back to America.  In Notes, Bryson talks of stopping in Bradford and checking out the only Cinerama screen in all of Europe.  Being both an Anglophile and a film lover, I just had to do more research on this place!  Cinerama, for all of those who are not film obsessed, was the three-camera mega-widescreen process developed in the 1950s to compete with the television market.  In the early 1950s, movie producers were losing millions and millions to television…meaning why should people go to the movies anymore since they had this great new medium of TV right in their homes?  So, Hollywood answered by giving the public something TV could never provide (today’s widescreen TVs try but are still not even close)… MAMMOTH SCREENS and the widest pictures ever imaginable.  Now, I know we have IMAX and even Omnimax now but still, Cinerama was superior.  Wikipedia describes this MUCH better than I ever could.
Ok, I digress…basically what all of that means is that I HAD to check Bradford out.  When I found out they had an annual film festival, I knew one year I would have to go.  So, I did.
Held in March since 1994, the BIFF is not “international” in the same sense as Cannes or Venice or Toronto.  I mean they show foreign films like the big festivals do, but there is little media coverage, very few people from abroad (I felt like the token American…not counting the few American filmmakers and dignitaries that were there), and the big celebrity names are limited to the award recipients, instead of the attendees (this year, Claire Bloom and Terry Gilliam were honored).  But, regardless of that, it was still an excellent festival.  I saw foreign films, documentaries, Canadian films, and many British films.  Most of the films were independents that might not make it to the Chicagoland area.
I would estimate that about only 20% of the new releases I saw will have a snowball’s chance of making it to the Chicagoland area…even on DVD.  The others are VERY, very small films with limited budgets and limited releases.  And this is why film festivals are key: at festivals, small films have a chance to been seen and noticed and even to thrive.
Would I go again?  YES…in a heartbeat.  Mostly because during my five days in Bradford, I never did get a chance to see a Cinerama film, which was my initial reason for wanting to come here.  Oh well, I will just have to go back!

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