Looking at the big picture

The Bradford Film Festival has been broadening viewers' horizons for a decade
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The Independent Culture

The annual Bradford film festival begins tomorrow at the National Museum of Film, Photography and Television. Now in its 10th year, the festival will feature the UK premiere of Kevin Costner's revisionist western Open Range, the first major retrospective of work by the director Mike Hodges and a lifetime achievement award for Ian Carmichael, the star of comedies by the Boulting brothers in the Fifties and Sixties.

The annual Bradford film festival begins tomorrow at the National Museum of Film, Photography and Television. Now in its 10th year, the festival will feature the UK premiere of Kevin Costner's revisionist western Open Range, the first major retrospective of work by the director Mike Hodges and a lifetime achievement award for Ian Carmichael, the star of comedies by the Boulting brothers in the Fifties and Sixties.

Tony Earnshaw, the festival director, says the festival grew from showcasing a weekend of wide-screen films. "Initially it was set up as a weekend of different format films, screened in 17mm, Cinerama and Dina Vision - all these bizarre wide-screen formats that were invented in the Forties and Fifties. This led to the Bradford Film Festival. We wanted the National Museum of Film and Theatre to have an annual film-orientated event, an event that championed cinema in the UK's Museum of Cinema."

The Museum of Film in Bradford was established in 1983, and Earnshaw regards the festival's base in West Yorkshire as a strength. "Often London won't take a film that has been screened at the Edinburgh Festival, and vice versa. We don't have that power, so if the film is good enough, if it's a good-quality title, then there's no reason for us not to screen it just because it has already played in London. The audiences up here are fundamentally different from those in the capital, so we'd be cutting our noses off to spite our faces if we didn't play those films."

Earnshaw says that, though the festival is a relatively recent arrival, it has the advantage of being able to embrace different initiatives. "We're not yet at the position where we can attract a Steven Spielberg or a Tom Cruise to the event - we simply haven't been going long enough - so what we do instead is tie in educational and historical aspects of someone's career. What makes us unique is that we don't just celebrate new cinematic skill and product, we also look at the people who make classic movies. We concentrate on the people who have been around for 40 or 50 years and we bring them in to tell their story."

Last year, there was a Jean Simmons retrospective; this year, the subject is the British director Mike Hodges, who will discuss his career with Earnshaw, from the cult gangster film Get Carter, to his latest offering, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead. There will also be a screening of everything he has directed: feature films, documentaries - and a couple of music promo videos he did for Queen. Earnshaw is excited by the idea. "We will be able to showcase the spectrum of his work. In Mike's case, that has never been done in its entirety before, all of it under one roof."

Earnshaw is bullish about the festival and its prospects. "We celebrate 21 years at the museum this year, and I think that Bradford proves to people that you don't have to have be in London for a festival or a museum to be successful."

Bradford Film Festival, National Museum for Photography, Film and Television, Bradford (0870 701 0200; www.bradfordfilmfestival.org.uk), from tomorrow to 27 March

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