In March 1995, Bradford’s first film festival got under way with a screening of The Madness of King George, which went on to win multiple awards including an Oscar and three Baftas.

This weekend the film returns to the city for a special screening marking the 20th anniversary of Bradford International Film Festival.

Looking back to the first festival, co-director Tom Vincent said: “It was, just like this 20th edition, full of surprises.

"The programme welcomed distinctive British and international guests, presented previews and exclusive surveys of cinema from around the world and a retrospective dedicated to a cinematic great. And though the blueprint has been tweaked here and there, the festival remains true to that first vision.”


Guests who have graced the red carpet over the years reads like a roll call of British Cinema greats: film-makers Ken Loach, Julien Temple, Chris Morris, Terry Gilliam, Jack Cardiff, Richard Attenborough and Kenneth Branagh, and actors John Hurt, Ian Carmichael, Malcolm McDowell, Jean Simmons, Derek Jacobi, Virginia McKenna, Eric Sykes, Ray Winstone, Claire Bloom, Tom Courtenay, Imelda Staunton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bill Nighy and Barbara Windsor, have all attended over the last 20 years.

This year’s festival opens on Thursday with the UK premiere of The Lunchbox. Every day in Mumbai, thousands of carefully prepared lunchboxes are distributed to workplaces across the city. The 130-year-old system runs like clockwork – until a one-in-a-million mix-up means one such lunchbox, dispatched by a devoted but unhappy housewife, ends up not with her husband but with another man. Against a vivid backdrop of bustling Mumbai life, the old-fashioned romantic story unfolds through a moving correspondence.

Closing the festival is Locke, starring Tom Hardy as a man enbroiled in personal and professional crises as he drives down a motorway conducting a series of increasingly fraught hands-free phone calls.

In total there are 127 films, including premieres, previews and cinematic surprises, on the programme for the 2014 festival, in partnership with Virgin Media.

Other highlights include Lilting, a moving film about two bereaved people attempting to connect across barriers; Tracks, a stirring depiction of self-discovery based on the true story of Robyn Davidson’s remarkable journey across 1,700 miles of Australian desert with four camels and a dog; The Coal Miner’s Day, a timely glimpse into old-school working practices in a Ukraine colliery, arriving on British screens during the 30th anniversary of the 1984 miner’s strike; the world premiere of Velorama, a documentary created from BFI archive material celebrating a century of the bicycle, part of the Yorkshire Festival celebrating the Tour de France Grand Depart; and the UK premiere of American Promise, a fascinating documentary made by the parents of two five-year-old friends following their lives over 13 years. Directors Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson will be in Bradford to introduce their film.

Veteran Scottish actor Brian Cox is the recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award and takes part in a Screen Talk with Festival Co-director Neil Young.

“Brian Cox has excelled consistently in distinctive, scene-stealing roles in cinema, stage and television, in a professional career spanning half a century,” said Mr Vincent.

“From his 1986 Hannibal Lecter in Michael Mann’s Manhunter and his definitive performance in Titus Andronicus at the National Theatre he reached the mainstream with a barnstorming turn in Braveheart and Rob Roy, which brought the proud Scot to Hollywood’s attention.

“In the ensuing two decades he’s added class and gravitas to productions ranging from blockbusters – X-Men and The Bourne Supremacy – to high-class auteur-driven fare such as Adaptation, Rushmore and Match Point to edgy indies like L.I.E. Cox has one of the great careers in British showbusiness, which we proudly salute this year at the Bradford International Film Festival.”

The festival features a selection of his highlights, including The Year of the Sex Olympics, Manhunter, Rushmore, L.I.E. and The Bourne Supremacy and a preview of Believe, in which he plays legendary Manchester United manager, Sir Matt Busby.

Other guests include Richard Jobson, former frontman of punk band The Skids, turned film-maker; Bafta-winning actress Vicky McClure, star of This Is England, This Is England 86 and Line of Duty, and a juror for this year’s Bradford UNESCO City of Film European Feature Competition; and comedian Graham Fellows, aka erstwhile Yorkshireman ‘John Shuttleworth’ who will give a short musical performance before his 2006 film, Its Nice Up North.

Director Sally Potter will collect BIFF’s Fellowship Award; screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, who scripted the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony and whose films include 24 Hour Party People and The Railway Man, is headline speaker for Filmmakers’ Weekend; and silent movie pianist and TV presenter Neil Brand joins film critic Mark Kermode’s rockabilly band, The Dodge Brothers to present the world premiere of a new score for 1916 silent western Hell’s Hinges.

A century after Charlie Chaplin’s little Tramp hit cinema screens, the festival celebrates the silent movie genius with some his funniest, most fascinating films, sponsored by Yorkshire Building Society. As well as a double-bill, with live piano, of The Immigrant and Easy Street, there’s a screening of Modern Times.

Late night horror strand Bradford After Dark returns, with highlights including Escape from Tomorrow, filmed guerrilla-style inside Disney World Florida and The Borderlands, described as an “utterly terrifying experience set in a West Country church”.

A series called Sydney Underground Shorts showcases short films from the world’s second UNESCO City of Film. Also screened are documentary shorts commissioned by Cinetrain, a Russian event inviting film-makers from around the world to participate in a documentary-making adventure aboard a train, creating films based on the theme ‘Russian Winter’.

Rounding off the 20th anniversary celebrations is a Surprise Sneaky Show on Saturday, screening a crowd-pleasing movie, originally shown at the first festival in 1995, in a secret location.

Organisers will provide clues on Facebook and Twitter:, @sneakyexp A public poll, Virgin Media’s Best of BIFF, will find the most popular film ever screened at the festival.