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Phillip Bergson

Writing about Films and Festivals.


Film Critic, UK,Invited Member  of  The UK Critics' Circle

FIPRESCI abd the European Film Academy.

Visiting Lecturer, Prague Film School.


Winner of the  "Student Journalist of the Year" competition in the UK weekly New Statesman, as a Classics Scholar Phillip Bergson then founded the Oxford Film Festival and, on graduating, was selected by "The Sunday Times" as a 'New Critic' and in the same week began broadcasting on film for many BBC Radio programmes. A contributor to the "Times Literary Supplement", "TES",The Spectator,film critic on "The Sunday Standard", "Screen International",Variety, "Film Bulletin", "Film a Doba" inter alia, and on the FilmFestJOURNAL in Berlin and Screen Dailies at Cannes,he also worked for the "European Script Fund", has scripted shorts and features (that have been produced and released) and, fluent in eight-and-a-half languages, currently programmes and advises several international film festivals and is.Casting Consultant on several international features. At the National  Museum of Photography, Film and Television, in his native Yorkshire, he created the "Eurovisions" project, to promote classic and contemporary European cinema,which was inaugurated at the Cine Lumiere in London by His Excellency the President of Iceland.

Presenter and Programmer,London Turkish Film Week, December 2018

Co=programmer, 2nd London Turkish Film Week, April 2019

Artistic Director, 3rd London Turkish Film Week, planned for 1-7 June 2020.

As a FIPRESCI Jury Member

and a member of  International Juries at

Thessaloniki, Europa Cinema (Rimini), Munich Documentary, Manaki Brothers,Cine Jove (Valencia),Chicago, TIFF-ODA


A Grand Launch for BIFF chez Bond

You might expect James Bond's London town-house to be securely guarded, so it took a flurry of e-mails and some guest-list confusion with the doorman to be ushered into the elegant home of Eon Productions, at the Hyde Park Corner end of Piccadilly, for the Launch of the 15th Bradford International Film Festival (on Thursday 26th February 2009).

What, you may ask, is the connection between an annual celebration of cinema in a Northern metropolis and the world's longest-running and most lucrative film franchise? Well, James Bond in one guise or another has often come to the aid of what used to be called the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, which was created -for reasons too complex to relate here- back on 16th June 1983 in the very heart of the West Yorkshire city of Bradford, once centre of the world's wool industry and one of the wealthiest places in the British Empire. Latterly, the city has suffered a sadly spectacular decline and is now perhaps better known as the scene of the worst race riots in British history a few summers ago - and not long before that as the venue for the public burning of copies of Salman Rushdie's fiery little novel "The Satanic Verses", the event that led to his fatwaisation.







Is Anybody There? BIFF opener

But apart from that, Mrs Lincoln- the Film Museum (as -in spite of its clumsy nomenclature- it came to be known and loved locally) actually grew, from a well-designed series of galleries exploring the origins and practice of photography in all its forms,as well as cinematography and television, housing the first permanent IMAX auditorium in Europe, with what was for long the largest cinema screen in the land of literally dizzying proportions, to swallow up the adjacent Library Theatre, which became in 1992, the Pictureville Cinema, described by David Puttnam as he then was, as more or less the best purpose-built cinema in the country.

The following year it was equipped with 3-projector Cinerama and remains, I believe, the only cinema in the world publicly and regularly screening the original Cinerama spectacles.(It continues to screen its own copy of This is Cinerama as a matinee on the first Saturday of every month). A third, smaller cinema was subsequently added and in recognition of its benefactor was called the Cubby Broccoli.Does the (Money-)penny now begin to drop?

After a later and lengthy refit, the transformed  and enlarged premises were inaugurated by Pierce Brosnan, and a large temporary exhibition "Bond, James Bond" opened there in 2002 before travelling south to London.(A similarly spectacular Star Wars show was shared with the Barbican in London).

The NMPFT was one of the first national museums to champion free admission,though screenings, and special exhibitions have always been open only to paying ticket-holders, and the catering in cafes and bars was not exactly low-priced.A sibling is the National Railway Museum in nearby York while the Mothership remains the Science Museum in South Kensington.It soon became one of the leading tourist venues in Great Britain and in its heyday was usually attracting one million visitors annually(no, I don't know they measured attendances when admission was free, perhaps 007 helped to monitor the families, schools and coachloads- latterly,admissions have apparently declined to some 700,000 each year which is not bad considering the Bradford Council seems to have let the city-centre suffer more damage than the Luftwaffe achieved.Eminent Bradfordian J.B.Priestley must be spinning in his grave today.

The Bradford International Film Festival grew out of the WideScreen Weekend which celebrated the building's unrivalled 70mm-and beyond-screening facilities.The splendid building was rebranded in 2007 as the National Media Museum, but as GNER has given way to National Express, it is not currently as easy to reach it by public transport from Kings Cross station in London (most train journeys require a change at Leeds' but there are some direct coach services from Victoria, and easier connections from Paris, Prague, Bruxelles,Amsterdam,etc to the nearby Leeds-Bradford International Airport. Though broadly referred to as being Up North, Bradford is actually in the heart of England, equidistant from Edinburgh and London.The local  water is the purest on the planet, and not for nothing is Yorkshire called 'God's own county'.

The 15th Bradford International Film Festivals runs from 13th-28th March 2009. Over a buffet lunch of sandwiches, fresh fruit and wines, NMeM staff outlined the programme and in the luxurious basement cinema an appetising montage of film extracts clarified the sundry strands.Essentially, BIFF is a selection of feature premieres and previews- the most important, unquestionably is Andrzej Wajda's 2007 wartime tragedy Katyn (8pm, 17th March, Pictureville-it received its UK premiere at Kinoteka 2008 in London but still has not secured distribution in this country) with sundry shorts (six of them short-listed for the Shine Short Film Award), a 'CineFile' of half a dozen films about films (such as Tasmanian Devil:the Fast and Furious Life of Errol Flynn, with Christopher Lee's articulate but rueful reminiscences of his painful encounter with the legendary hell-raising star), a new section of some 15 feature-length Documentaries, and a number of independent films representing 'Uncharted States of America.

The WideScreen Weekend brings its own fans from far and wide in the middle of the festival(a Widescreen pass costs £85)- this year a focus on the work of the Festival's Artistic Director's favourite actor Richard Burton brings Derren Nesbitt to introduce Where Eagles Dare,while amongst the sundry Hollywood musicals and biblical epics there are some more recent movies that I didn't think had been shot in 70mm.

But the greatest interest has to be for the special events.BIFF traditionally opens and closes with new British productions, and lures some veteran home-grouwn talents,and this year is no exception- Virginia McKenna will attend to receive an award and share a Screentalk, with six of her best-known films to be screened;Terry Jones, erudite comedian and director,fields three of his films;Peter Whitehead, documentarist of the Swinging Sixties is due; and recently-made Patron, Michael G.Wilson, continuing Bond producer will give a Masterclass(7pm, Thursday 19th March, aptly enough in the Cubby Broccoli auditorium seating just over a hundred).

The most interesting section of this year's festival, and one fully consonant with its taking place entirely within a marvellous museum of film, is the tribute to James Mason, celebrating the centenary of his birth. It may be an eccentric selection of the work of this effortlessly elegant actor and star (whom I met and interviewed during the shooting of The Shooting Party) but the half-dozen or so films range from Odd Man Out to Cross of Iron(which received its UK premiere at the Oxford International Film Festival), with a couple of documentaries and a rare chance to see his last role in the TV drama Dr Fischer of Geneva, which underlines the fact that the NMeM also chronicles television and has a custom-built Viewing Gallery with nearly 1,000 programmes that can be seen free of charge anytime during opening hours. BIFF is one of the few film events that can compliment its film programmes with related TV documentaries and dramas. Very few film festivals in the world enjoy such permanent, year-round facilties; only Belgrade's FEST could rival it for being able to run an entire festival within a single building.

With this unique asset, Bradford is now bidding to become UNESCO's first City of Film, and has produced some fascinating, lavish booklets to plead its case, charting the history of film-going and film-making in the city.(Across the way from the NMeM still stand,just, the derelict twin towers of the New Victoria, once the largest cinema in the British Empire,still sadly neither redeveloped nor restored to its former glory).BIFF programmes three strange bedfellows in support of this bid - The Day the Earth Stood Still(1.30pm, Thursday 26th March, Pictureville) as its star Michael Rennie was born in Bradford, and a century ago; Pierrepoint (4pm, Monday 16th March, Pictureville) as Britain's chief hangman came from Bradford (not something I would have thought wise to publicise); and Room at the Top(1/15pm, Saturday 14th March, Cubby Broccoli), which is the classic version of John Braine's novel set in Bradford and actually shot in the city. One of its stars, Laurence Harvey, was billeted for the shooting,I believe, in The Midland Hotel, one of those grand Victorian railway hotels, built literally over the platforms of the Forster Square terminus. Infuriated by the noise of shuntings and steamings one night, he strode to the top of the staircase (on which Sir Henry Irving had expired half-a-century previously,perhaps similarly exasperated) and bellowed down into the lobby, "When does this hotel get to King's Cross?"

Although the few daily trains now running direct to London still depart from the same Forster Square station, it has actually been re-assembled a couple of hundred metres away from the back door of the Midland, and the hotel itself has been beautifully renovated,is much quieter, and is BIFF's official hostelry, so perhaps you can get special rates if you book to attend the festival this month (especially if you ask for a Room at the Top!).

Phillip Bergson




Comments (4) rip-off

Phillip Bergson


En effet!   The logo is printed so small in the BIFF catalogue it is difficult to read.

I did not know anyone had dared to usurp our name.

May they go the way of GNER!

Calling on our Festival Agent 007

Hi Phillip, why did you say was a patron of BIFF? we are not in fact.

The editor

BIFF boff!

because the BIFF catalogue lists you on the inside front page as one of the patrons SPONSORS and supporters? I thought it etrange...more text to follow!!

heros malgré lui

so they decide to give us credits and did not tell us?

that's funny.
Sure you are not mistaking with film and english publication that outrageously took a name very similar to ours, with same fest focus and put it ON THE WEB.
Besides that publication still owes us half a page ad, as part of a deal that did not went through very well.

The editor

About Phillip Bergson