Like all good things, the second annual Aesthetica Short Film Festival had to come to a close on Sunday. Although film screenings were more limited than the previous two days, York’s film fans were out in force on the gloriously sunny day and easily noticeable, thumbing their programmes and traversing their way through crowds scouting out their next location.
Starting my day in the historic environs of St William’s College, the first film of the day was A Short Film About Love And Affection. Similar in tone to the disturbing Brit-horror Eden Lake, the film follows the story of a repressed teenager from a strict Christian household being tormented on his way to school which ends with rather grisly climax. A few clunky lines of dialogue can be forgiven when the two admirable performances from the two young leads are taken into account. Next up was actor/director Eric Kolelas’s Fifty Pence, a thought-provoking drama, following Darren’s (played by Kolelas) attempt to escort a woman across Paris for a small-time criminal. Despite being one of the shortest dramas screening at the festival, Calum Macdiarmid’s jet black comedy- drama, 82 was one of the most striking films of the weekend and got Nouse’s vote for the People’s Choice Award. Redolent of Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, 82 sees Nick Moran on blistering form as a psychopathic postman from hell, and includes two deliciously unexpected twists. No mean feat for a film clocking in at a mere six minutes.
The two undisputed cinematic highlights of the midday were drama Layke Anderson’s Dylan’s Room and Saskia Reis’ documentary Roses In London. Roses in London is the video portrait of a transgender performance artist from New York, living in London and the film sees him talking illuminatingly and frankly about his life and the struggles of living on the outer fringes of society. Dylan’s Room, which eventually won the overall Drama prize at the festival, is a film in which a grieving mother looks through her son’s empty bedroom to discover a bag of weed and decides to roll up a joint but anyone expecting Pineapple Express will be disappointed. Dylan’s Room is a poignant meditation on a mother’s grief and has a stellar performance from Joanna Scanlan of The Thick Of It. It’s easy to see why it found favour with with judges.
In search of some light relief I headed off to watch the final set of comedies screening at the festival, but such was the popularity of festival venue 1331 that, in spite of arriving twenty minutes early, it was already at full capacity and I was turned away. This was something of a blessing in disguise as it meant that I instead attended one of the last Drama screenings of the weekend and saw two of my favourite films of the entire weekend. First up was was Charles Chintzer Lai’s Blue Monday. Reminiscent of critically lauded work of indie darling du jour Lena Dunham, the film is the deeply melancholy depiction of a day in the life of Claire (played outstandingly by Josephine Starte), a disillusioned twenty-something stuck in a dead-end job, while one of her best friends is enjoying burgeoning success as a writer. The film will no doubt tap into the anxieties of twenty-somethings leaving university all over the country.
The sumptuously photographed Glick’s Last Tour was the second highlight of the set of films I watched that afternoon. This bittersweet study of a veteran seaside entertainer and his ventriloquist dummy falling upon hard times, financially and personally, touched on themes of nostalgia, old age and the importance of following your passion no matter what was possibly the most acutely moving film I’d seen all weekend; a fantastic way to round off the weekend.
At first, I had approached the weekend with a certain degree of trepidation, due to a lack of any real knowledge of short film and the entirely misplaced preconception that some of the films would be a bit amateur-ish. Over the weekend, I came to the realisation that to describe any of the films I’d seen at the festival this weekend as being ‘well-made’ would be incredibly patronising to the vast majority filmmakers screening films at the festival. In turn, this emphasised what a critical role festivals such as ASFF play in bringing up-and-coming film-makers work to the attention of a wider audience and changing people’s (mine included) myopic attitude towards short film.