Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2016: Day 1

traipses through York to bring us coverage of the first day at the Aesthetica Short Film Festival

Image: Phoenix Films and Media Production Ltd

Image: Phoenix Films and Media Production Ltd

If anything has come out of today, at the very least I have had a lesson in humility – I do not know my way around York. With around 400 films being shown in 18 venues over four days, the Aesthetica Short Film Festival is a daunting experience, especially for those who still get routinely lost trying to find Wentworth. So, armed with my lanyard pass and google maps, I eventually managed to find my way to the screenings.

The first film I saw that impressed me was Panic, directed by James Cookson, about Dylan, a young man plagued by nightmares and stuck with his alcoholic father in a farm in Wales, wanting to escape. This was the fourth thriller I saw. The previous three struggled to build up the tension in such as short amount of time. Either they rushed to build up the drama so that it felt unbelievable or they would wait so that the pay-off was brief and unsatisfying. This film, on the other hand, managed to find a sweet spot between the two. It’s dark, brooding, and thrilling, with a great lead performance by Tom Rhys Harries – certainly an entertaining watch.

I am still confused by the following film, although I can say that I certainly enjoyed it. In a complete contrast to its predecessor, Insomnolence directed by Kiefer Findlow is a psychedelic vision of a man mourning his wife. I can’t talk much more about the plot since because I’m not entirely sure what happened. Bizarre, creepy, but strangely moving, with visuals reminiscent of films like Suspiria, this is a film you will ponder after leaving the cinema.

I would also like to give shout out to the University of York production, Under the Floorboards directed by Ryan Bloom. It is about a young boy, subjected to a tyrannical mother, who on his birthday finds a magical city under the floorboards. It is lovely and creative. Though it could be compared to films like Jumanji where games come to life, the dark undertone makes it seem more like a modern-day fairy tale. Emma Tugman is great as the mother, making the most of the evil maternal figure trope, but just toeing the line on becoming a caricature with moments of real humanity seeping through.

Image: Fred Castadot

Image: Free Angels

If you like your short films less magical and more nail-biting, with gut-wrenching tension, then the film for you is the Belgian film Blazing Sun, directed by Fred Castadot. On a hot summer’s day, Eric is due to present a career defining project, but he forgets something incredibly important. I have never been happier that this is a short film, because I don’t think I could deal with the sense of dread watching this as a feature length. Beautifully shot so that you can almost feel the heat coming off the screen, it clearly gets its message across without being sanctimonious by being critical without condemnation. And finally, to ease the tension of this film, I would recommend Jim “the Fish”, a film about an old fisherman’s hunt for love. It may be a bit predictable and the symbolism a little too obvious, but it’s utterly charming. It will bring a smile to your face and a refreshing break from the cynicism that seems to fill cinemas today.

One day down. Three to go. A lot of films to see.

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