BIFF 2014 Day Summary - Saturday 29th March

By way of an arbitrary comparison, it feels as though the Bradford International Film Festival has moved a little closer to its local compatriot festival Leeds this year. Where in the past I have sat at Bradford and watched a film comprised entirely of shots from a train window, this year the programme feels at least somewhat more mainstream. There are, at least, fewer trains.

The behaviour of the M6 on Sunday was not conducive for a prompt arrival, but I did just make it in time to dive into Modern Times, part of a centenary celebration of Chaplin's films. Marred partially by a typical Bradford technical hitch, which saw someone press 'stop' on the Blu-ray player, this was a good way to start a great programming decision by the festival: the Pictureville cinema was relatively full, considering it was showing a widely available film from the 1930s.

Pictureville, as an aside, is absolutely a reason to visit BIFF in and off itself. The wide auditorium with three seating sections is large enough to feel sizeable and small enough to feel homely. The adjustable width screen can be massive (attend on Widescreen Weekend to get the full effect) but also shrinks down to Academy ratio, as it did for Chaplain. Because it's fed by an expert projection team, and adjusted with aid from the curtains, it looks and feels natural no matter what ratio of film its displaying. The occasional technical hitch goes with the hi-tech/low-tech territory, and has almost become part of the charm.

American Promise followed, though it only half delivered on its title's suggestion. Following two young black Americans through their entire school life, the directors (also the parents of one of the children) seem to suggest that they are there to critique the school system, cultural integration in America and at least a handful of other things. In the end, they end up with an interesting portrait of their child and his friend but don't manage to do any of the other elements to any noticeable degree of success.

Moving to the National Media Museum's IMAX, Looking For Light: Jane Brown was next. The IMAX is the antithesis of Pictureville: nothing seems to fit, from picture size to the seats, which provide no leg room even for me at 5"10'. Jane Brown, at a much shorter height, admits that she is probably not everyone's idea of a photographer: sternly Home Counties-middle class and frequently in possession of a wicker basket of paraphernalia. Brown's images though are iconic and look fantastic as stills on this film, though you feel it could have served her better. Despite the nice visuals, this felt sleepy and uninspired.

My final film of the day, Lilting, was certainly the best of the new films on offer. Telling a complicated story of a man trying to relate to his dead lover's non-English speaking mother, this felt like the perfect pick for an International Film Festival. Lilting celebrates the differences in cultural exchange as much as it does the similarities, and champions non-verbal communication as a perfectly valid way to relate. It's touching and sweet and it finished my first of two days at what promises to be an excellent 20th year for BIFF.

The 20th Bradford International Film Festival runs from 27th March to 6th April 2014, with Widescreen Weekend taking place between 10th and 13th April. It is based at The National Media Museum, in the centre of Bradford.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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