The 2015 Aesthetica Experience (Part One)

gives a personal account of the whirlwind experience of the 2015 Aesthetica Film Festival

The Aesthetica Short Film Festival was celebrated this weekend in York and Nouse was lucky enough to have three writers there. Our first entry on the festival is a walk through the exciting experience. Over the next few days we will be featuring fuller reviewers from some of the entries.

Image: Image: Shezad Dawood, Towards the Possible Film. (ASFF Artists’ Film category)

Image: Image: Shezad Dawood, Towards the Possible Film. (ASFF Artists’ Film category)

A first for me, the fifth time for the Aesthetica Short Film Festival, and four days of worldly culture for York: The festival, ASFF for short, was a blooming success and many venues were absolutely packed with film-lovers. Unfortunately, being a busy student I could only afford to visit some of the venues between school work. It seemed oddly fitting in a way that the last day of the festival, onSunday, was also incidentally Remembrance day – and a watery one at that. The screenings almost seemed mysterious goings-on, as you walked through a city collectively remembering our fallen soldiers with showers from above.

Despite the recurring streaks of heavy rain, the city was packed with families, men and women in uniform, the elderly and the young which gave the festival a sense of camaraderie. Slogging through the big pools of water, you would spot the occasional yellow band of the ASFF key-chain peeping out of someone’s jacket next to the red poppy. It was clear that in this field of people, there were bunches of short film lovers all around.

I made the mistake of just winging it and secretly thinking I could go and see most of what I wanted to see. But, as is typical of ASFF, there are too many glorious options to choose from. You cannot see them all. The festival had already started on Thursday, existing of sixteen venues around town. Every screen showed genre-viewings nearly continuously all day and interchanged the genres, which leads to approximately forty screenings a day.

On Sunday, there were fifty-one screenings, in ten venues, and I still though I could wing it. Foolishly.

I chose to start by following the World Cinema society to the first viewing that focused on documentaries, in the City Screen Cinema. After being dazzled by a short about gender non-conformative kids (Tomgirl, Jeremy Asher Lynch) and being surprised by a film from my own country (the Netherlands) about migrant women learning to ride a bike while in the capable hands of an eccentric community-mother (Mama Agatha, Fadi Hindash) I had to unfortunately skip the rest and leave the cinema to jog to the next venue, the Middletons Hotel, to catch the experimental screening.

Tomgirl (Jeremy Asher Lynch)

This film takes a look at the way parents raise their children, and especially those children who are labelled “gender non-conformative.” Through a series of talking-heads shots, the film introduces us to the absolutely wonderful 7-year-old Jake, who has decided that sporting long hair and a skirt is way more his style. His mother recounts her reasons for never objecting to Jake’s preferences, showing us that gender assignment is in fact none-sense. A child, when not influenced by the media, can be allowed to grow up to be anything he or she wants to be. The film depicts the beautiful accepting relationship between Jake and his parents, and shines a spotlight on a distorted need for of gender-assignment in our culture.

My sense of direction is unfortunately as accurate as that of a headless pigeon, so it took me a good 15 minutes to find it, and I then happily strolled into a networking session for filmmaking specialists, also organised by the ASFF. It seemed fun but highly intimidating, so I asked some of the very kind festival volunteers for directions and they assisted me to find it. The experimental session was screened behind a big black curtain, which added to the exclusiveness of the setting. The venue was small, and the films were, let’s say… experimental. The session I attended was the 3rd one, and I was able to see I, the Memorious (Nizar Sfair) which shows us the spiritual journey of a lonely soldier in the Middle East through sensational imagery in dark sepia.

This of course resonated heavily with Remembrance Day, and everyone was very quiet after the short had finished. The follow-up was an unnerving story about a girl’s who tried to escape from her siblings and the religious sect they belonged to. A weird tone is set at the start, but it is made clear through a disturbing intimate relation between the sibling that something is not right. The film was a rather unpleasant experience, but I suppose it was supposed to be.

After a duo of stark realism I felt the need for something more energetic. And so, I left early again to walk to the King’s Manor. What was I looking for? Some animation….literally….

(Part two of Coco’s Adventure will be posted during the week as our two other Nouse Aesthetica representatives give their thoughts on the films they saw.)

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