BIFF Talks; Festival Chatter From Industry Experts, A Projectionist and A Suitcase

One of the joys of attending a film festival, quite apart from watching the films, is the litany of excellent film chat that can be had during the breaks in play, or when a pause in film screenings is taken to allow someone interesting to get on stage and speak. Whether you're listening to an expert, sharing a table in the bar or simply sitting next to a stranger in a screening, the level of educated chat to be had at Bradford was high. Apart from when I found myself sitting next to this...

The gentleman carrying it was roughly as drunk as your average worm in a bottle of tequila and, having deposited his suitcase, sat there for a few minutes and then stumbled out, apparently leaving the luggage to enjoy the closing gala all by itself. Before this, however, he had regaled me with a description of how I was about to watch something that would 'blo... bloo... blooooooow your miiiind'. The film was Samsara, and I can only imagine that the visual nature of it would probably cause someone that drunk to have an instant aneurysm.

On stage, the company in the same screening seemed remarkably soberer, although projectionist Duncan McGregor did share my neighbour's (the man, not the suitcase) passion for Ron Fricke's film. Festival co-directors Tom Vincent and Neil Young were great in their introductions of the various films throughout the festival but it was a welcome change to hear from a 'behind-the-scenes' team member, who had clearly helped to champion the film's cause as worthy of inclusion and, ultimately, worthy of closing the whole thing. More festivals should encourage this level of participation from their wider team and the decision to get Mr McGregor to introduce Samsara can be counted as one of the best on show at Bradford.

Earlier in the day, a somewhat more recognisable name had taken to the stage to talk for around an hour on the history of widescreen cinema. Kevin Brownlow is a director in his own right but is probably best known amongst film fans for his restoration efforts on Abel Gance's Napoleon and his honorary Oscar award in 2010. Mr Brownlow talked with obvious intelligence about the history of widescreen but his talk may have been improved by the help of a partner. I'm sure Ray Winstone, during his excellent hour on stage, could have scripted an hour long talk about his life to read to the audience, but his delivery was improved remarkably by partnering him with Mark Kermode to lead him along and Brownlow could have done with a bit of the same dynamism and un-scripted invention. I personally still found him incredibly interesting to listen to but it is only fair to point out that some in the audience seemed to be struggling at this point in the morning...

For the avoidance of any doubt caused by my outstanding photography, yes, at least two of those gentlemen are asleep, although, to be fair, that was a couple of minutes before the talk proper started.

No sleeping required however during the introduction and intermission of South Seas Adventure, where a Cinerama expert whose name I failed to note down for some reason (no, I was definitely not asleep) gave a compellingly in-depth insight to the backstory behind the picture, capping this off an hour later, during intermission, when he introduced surprise guest Ramine, one of the stars of the film. To an audience mainly comprised of Cinerama devotees any way, this was all gold-dust but even I, a newcomer to the format, could see the value of the research in his initial talks and the crowd-pleasing logic of introducing the guest at the half-way point.

My Cinerama education had begun even earlier in the morning when Dave Strohmaier and Randy Gitsch delivered a well-rehearsed, illustrated, presentation about the format, which birthed just a handful of films around the 1950s. The pair are in the throes of resurrecting Cinerama - which shoots on to three 35mm films simultaneously, giving an ultra-widescreen image - for a new short and their dedication to the discipline, along with that of the audience, was infectious, if perhaps a little niche. Then again, this section of the programming is called 'Widescreen Weekend' and you can't say fairer than programming extended content about a camera which shoots three separate reels of film, in order to go above and beyond the call of regular widescreen.

Great content, talks and chat alike then, although not really from the suitcase, though the number of intelligible answers it gave to my questions was comparable with those of the same from its owner.

The 18th Bradford International Film Festival runs from 19th - 29th April at The National Media Museum and several satellite venues in and around Bradford. It includes a European Features competition, the Shine Short Film Award and several major UK premieres and retrospectives.

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