The first ever Drunken Film Festival took place in nine venues across Bradford city centre in the last week of July. It brought a huge selection of films to the screens, showcasing a range of categories including home-brewed, documentary and music videos, alongside some round-table discussions and live music. It was an incredible showcase of Bradford’s City of Film status and a worthy replacement in the light of the regular BIFF.

The festival, organised by Jax Griffin, began with a really positive start on Monday 25 July with well over sixty people packing into the Bradford Brewery for an evening of short films, live music and a big feature to wrap up the night.

Presented by Shay, the opening night showcased seventeen films ranging from some just one minute long through to eighteen minutes in length with many highlights through the evening. Personal favourites included the opening piece Just Let Go, an accurate portrayal of OCD and financial concerns wrapped up in a palpable eight minutes of tension. A special mention too for Get In, directed by Ross Birks, which was a very well filmed and acted three-hander with spot-on dialogue and huge comic guts.

Polterheist, the final short piece of the evening, was a great way to tie up the first half and it’s not difficult to see why the film has won awards. With great dialogue, some incredible performances from the three cast members – in particular Kathryn Hanke both in delivery and facial experience – and a very witty script. Not to mention being set in Bradford.

There was a pleasing interlude to the night with some stripped back live music from Dave McKinley before the feature length finale Netherby Naps, a submission from the oldest film-maker presenting at the festival.

On Tuesday a knot of keen and experienced film-makers and onlookers gathered in the Brew Haus to discuss the long-standing debate about film vs digital. The debate covered a wide range of topics including film stock, the democratisation of movie making and how financial and time restrictions can have a positive effect on the artistic process. The evening’s event was dedicated to documentary films, this time taking place in the Library Bar of Glyde House. A 30-strong audience was there to enjoy movies on a whole range of subjects. from the homeless to plastic surgery, knife-sharpening and pizza delivery. If the aim of a successful documentary is to introduce the audience to worlds they’d not normally encounter, then this evening certainly delivered.

The definite highlight of the evening was Martin Lennon’s The Frying Game, a short 10-minute documentary on a Scottish fish and chip shop that claims to be the birthplace of the deep-fried Mars Bars. Well filmed through the use of establishing shots, vox-pops and before-and-after interviews, the audience laughed all the way through this piece and it got one of the biggest rounds of applause at the end and sparked much discussion on the sweet treat, especially from those who have previously tried one (yes, I’m guilty).

On Wednesday evening it was over to the Record Café for the third night with thirty-seven music videos from across the world displayed on the big screen. This evening was the busiest night of the week with a strong regular audience and many coming in and out throughout the evening. It was also the most casual and friendly atmosphere of the week, held together by a bouncy and welcoming compere Ben Peel.

There was plenty to enjoy over the four hours of music videos, live music and a concluding half-hour documentary called Streethawk Diaries. Ahead of the final documentary, Ben tied up the evening with a pleasing indie set, juggling  vocals, guitar and harmonica.

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On Thursday Forks Café hosted an interesting open discussion on the appropriation of race in fantasy film, led by Pauline Mayers. The festival then headed to Delius for the section of films called Q’uest-ce Que Cest, meaning literally ‘what is it that it is’. These were a block of some of the more surreal or eclectic films submitted to the team and a small audience thoroughly enjoyed the weirdness of the material on show.

Over the first two hours there were fifteen of the most unusual and different films you could imagine but it was the final three films in this block that made the evening. Bubbles Don’t Lie, from the Czech Republic, told the story of a world where numbers suddenly appear over everyone’s heads and had the audience in stitches through to the end credits.

The Art Bastard Show was a mockumentary in the style of the BBC’s Twenty Twelve or W1A focussing on the art world of Bristol. It was another laugh-out-loud effort thanks to the determination of the cast and narrator to remain entirely straight-faced through the absurd scenarios. This was a near-perfect spot-on parody that wouldn’t look out of place on mainstream television.

The evening continued with the animation block showing 21 pieces in a variety of styles, continuing on from the live action films in terms of the level of weirdness. These included examples of hand-drawn animation, rotoscoping and 3D creations before the midnight madness was brought forward to wrap the night up with USA horror film Bear With Us.

Following a trio of German films under the title of Bavarian at the Bierkeller that afternoon, the final night of films took place in the Theatre In The Mill at the University of Bradford, with the large screen set up in the main performance space. Host Carlos introduced fifteen short films and a feature to a keen and growing audience during the evening.

This selection of films was as weird and wonderful as the previous days with a mixture of styles and dramas, with many open to interpretation and leading to much discussion in the breaks about what they meant.

Just Talking To Her from the Republic of Korea was one of the best of the set, capturing the subject of loneliness and the busy lives we all feel we have, with humour in both light and dark shades with quite an uplifting ending. Then I Woke Up was another highlight, with some strong framing, a great central performance from the lead actress and some well-crafted scenes of dialogue. The audience was left wondering how much you’d seen was real or not, another talking point in the batch of films as the night went for a break.

Shredder, the longest short film of the night from Russia, was another of the more memorable pieces. Set around a radio studio and offering thoughts on the nature of modern art, it was a well-crafted piece that layered documentary with drama and character pieces with political discussion.

The final night of films concluded with the feature-length USA film Split by director Deborah Kampmeier. It was a fitting end to a great week of movies and was followed by a Q&A with the director over Skype.

With the film showings wrapped up all that was left was the wrap party which took place on Saturday night at Trash where supporters of the Kickstarter and other guests mixed with the festival team. Bradford band Rubber Kazoo entertained the audience with two high-energy rocking sets of covers kicking off with Come Together by the Beatles and rattling through a varied set of songs from The Coral, Dolly Parton, Eagle Eye Cherry, Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin.

In between sets the winners of the festival were announced, including the audience choice, which was Ecce Homo from Monday night’s seventeen. Best Feature was Tuesday’s Capture, best documentary The Hollerin’ Contest At Spivey’s Corner from the same showing, and the best short film director David Gilbank’s Polterheist from Monday.

With the festival wrapping up everyone returned home with the knowledge that the six days had been a great showcase for over a hundred films of different lengths, styles and concepts as well as a wide range of great venues and music acts from the city. It was an event that celebrated not only Bradford’s cinematic history but its music and cultural heritage too. It’s a credit to the team behind the Drunken Film Festival for not sitting back when no formal film festival was set for 2016 and replacing it with something bigger, better and much more dynamic and community-focussed. We look forward to its return in 2017.

Did you see some favourite films or acts during the festival? Share your thoughts in the comments selection below and follow the festival at twitter.com/DrunkenFilmFest.

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