My expectations of the ASFF film festival were mixed. On the one hand I was worried watching so many short films over 4 days would leave my brain the consistency of soup. But on the other I was massively excited. One of the perks of being on the TV and Film section; I’m obligated to go to this stuff, the essays can wait.
So I headed out into town, looking like minor visual-pollution. The choice of a ‘Vote for Pedro’ t-shirt clearly showing my originality, that I possess the ability to both watch films and then buy relevant merchandise. While my obnoxiously orange (but vitally warm) jacket, proving my merit as an independent film reviewer, or as a character from Fargo.
First up it’s the sixth selection of films from the ‘Experimental’ category. Overall it was a mixed experience. As you’d expect from this genre all the films aimed to challenge normal conventions and expectations of cinema. However, the quality varied. Unfortunately for the later films, the initial two, You Are Awake (Pedro Martin-Calero) and Blackout (Jordan Baseman) were the more powerful and interesting, both concerning black outs. You Are Awake presented a stylistic take on the subject, the quick editing cuts similar to a Wes Anderson feature, while the film overall was the more accessible of the selection.
Blackout meanwhile was probably the standout feature. Visually a mix of black blank screen and corrupted film reel, accompanied by immersive narration, detailing a girl’s dependency on alcohol and how this led to frequent blacking out and loss of time. Blackout demonstrates that experimental films do not have to be superficial or inaccessible, they can breach the normal boundaries of film in order to achieve a more effective emotive experience. The quality of these two pictures was to the detriment of the later. The following films either didn’t reach the same level of experimentation with production, or lacked the emotional intensity to assign meaning. For example, City Crush was almost too odd, merging absurd and surrealist scenes with the mundane. I suspect it was supposed to be funny at times, but there was little audience reaction, never mind outright laughter.
In a brief break from my traipsing around York, I sit down and watch The Boy by the Sea. Directed by Vasily Chuprina this is a quiet and thoughtful piece, dwelling on a young boy’s question: where do the stones go when they sink? The concise narrative is apt enough to cover the theme of grief and present character growth in a short space of time. Interestingly it will be shown at the Edmonton International Film Festival, an Academy Award qualifying festival. Worth a watch if only to see a film potentially on the AA’s radar.
The second screening I attended was the Showcase Screening for the University of York’s Film and TV Production course. In a brief introduction by one of the course lecturers it was mentioned that this course is relatively new – they have had 4 passing classes – and this was the first screening external to the university. With this in mind, I saw an immensely high quality of work produced across various genres; the department and students should be congratulated. All the films looked highly professional and would not have looked out of place outside of the specific section alongside other films from the festival. My personal highlights of the screening were A Match Made in Heaven (Nick Lester and Erika Budd), and Journey Home (Alex Campbell).
The former is a documentary on the sometimes intimate relationship people experience with their pets. Following the stages of Birth, Marriage (yes they interviewed a woman who had married her dog), Divorce (not between the previous couple, but between a cat and a dog…) and Death. Overall the documentary achieved exceedingly high standards of production while capturing the humour of these cases, along with the heart behind them. Journey Home, could be considered a simplistic story, but it achieved a great deal of charm and effectively communicated the struggle of returning home after space. The costume team should also be proud across the board, from the astronaut to the period piece.
If anyone is considering attending the festival on either Sunday or next year, I’d advise arriving early to the screenings. Due to an absent sense of direction I arrived slightly late to one of the screenings, and it had reached maximum capacity. Additionally, the Videotheque, a venue providing access to all the films from the festival in an accessible environment, closes at 4:30 not 5:30 as it states in the programme.
The festival runs until the 6th of November. I hope to be seeing it again soon.