Did you know that York is home not only to a great university, but to one of the most unique and popular film events in the UK? The Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) was founded four years ago by York-based arts magazine Aesthetica, and since then has grown every year, turning York into a bustling meeting-place for film industry professionals every November.
This year’s festival launches at City Screen on the evening of November 6th, then runs through three jam-packed days of screenings and other events, finishing with an awards ceremony for the best films of the festival and an after party at the De Grey rooms on November 9th. Screenings are being held at pop-up cinemas in locations including King’s Manor, the Yorkshire Museum and the bar 1331, transforming the city itself into a screen for funny, chilling, thought-provoking and creative films.
Although short films play an important role in the film industry as a low-budget opportunity for beginner filmmakers to gain experience, showcase their talents, and simply tell a story they want to share with the world, many film-lovers never seek them out. The same creative freedom the genre inspires makes viewers seeing them as pretentious, or just as a snack when they want a three-course dinner. That’s a shame, because as ASFF proves, short film making offers just as great a varied and creative section of films as you’ll find in the cinemas, if not more so. The festival features over 300 films, organised into blocks by genres such as comedy, drama, animation, experimental, documentary, thriller, music video and family-friendly. Just a few of the wide variety of films featured in this year’s selection include Keeping Up with the Joneses, which stars Maxine Peake as an MP’s wife who’s taken hostage; John and Iris, an animation inspired by an interview with a couple about their 61-year marriage; and Manny Gets Censored, a film about a man whose life receives a G rating. A student one-day pass costs £13:50, which entitles you to free access to all screenings. Just pick a strand that appeals to you and drop by. You may like some films more than others, but I guarantee you’ll watch something that makes you see the world anew.
One of the secrets of ASFF’s success is its commitment to innovation. Every year has increased the range of genres screening, and this year they’re showing two new strands; fashion and advertising. The screenings promise to challenge assumptions about these industries; the advertising films have the same narrative and visual innovation as traditional films, while the fashion strand establishes a place for serious discussion about fashion film’s responsibility to society and impact upon visual culture; for example, the film Red Shoes, starring model and actor Lily Cole, was inspired by Vivienne Westwood’s Climate Revolution.
ASFF is also noted for its international tone. Last year the festival organisers introduced strands focusing on films from a specific country, and this year they’re doing the same again, with films from Japan, Iraq and Lebanon, as well as official selections from the Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur and the Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival. In total, films from 39 countries worldwide are showing. The festival also features networking events, talks on topics including how to edit films, crowdfunding and the crossover between film and gaming, and guest speakers including Turner Prize nominee Isaac Julien, film critic Anna Smith and Brassed Off director Mark Herman. There’s something for everyone, so film lovers in York shouldn’t miss this chance to sample some amazing things in small packages.
From ASFF entrant Y20