The 2015 Aesthetica Experience (Part Two)

is enraptured with all ASFF has to offer in the second part of her Aesthetica Short Film Festival reflection

Part One

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

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

By this time in my Aesthetica experience, I was like an explorer forging ahead – like the visitors in Towards the Possible (reviewed below). I headed to the animation films ready to explor the possibility of a variet of styles in animation. I was not disappointed.

Tall Tales (Jon Turner)

The film begins with a relatively conventional 3D animation about a father explaining to his daughter why she needs to keep quiet while they’re on a train, which I highly recommend; Tall Tales, part 2 is cute but horrifying, as it implicates children being brutally murdered by a bear, while the narrator happily conveys the story as if it is a pleasant fairytale. The crowd in the lecture room exclaimed multiple awkward laughs and claps throughout, not really sure if we were to be offended or laugh outright. The animation was remenicent of Dreamworks materials, and made it even more horrifying by the added blood trails.

I followed up the impressive Tall Tales with a black and white, highly unsettling German short film called Daewit (David Jansen) and the even more disturbing partly-british short film Teeth (Daniel Gray, Tom Brown) which takes a closer look at one man’s obsession with his own teeth and how it spirals down into something horrifying. A visually stunning film, but I recommend not eating before you watch it.

43/ Forty Three followed, a manga-styled 2D animation. This film affected me most, emotionally, as it is a silent commentary on the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, through the eyes of an 8-year-old boy, who’s watching the bomb fall. I was surprised by the follow-up, The Mill at the Calder’s End (Kevin McTurk) because it looked so incredibly beautiful and realistic for an animation. What I thought to be computer-animation turned out to be actual puppets, but this does not cancel out the incredible skill with which the film-makers created the stunning visuals. The screening ended with the incredibly funny 3D short Dji. Death Seals (Dmitri Voloshin) about a rather clumsy Reaper, who ends up saving his pirate – victim instead of killing him.

As an experiment, I decided to sneak into the 3rd Artists’ Film screening at the 1331 club, which again, I circled endlessly before finding. The lovely volunteers helped me out yet again, and so I ended up standing in the adorable screening-room of the 1331, which was stuffed with people. The films were meant as poetic narratives and philosophical explorations of life, different universes and the stream of consciousness, mostly constructed from abstract imagery and experimentation with the camera. This resulted in both jaw-dropping visual constructions such as the Towards the Possible Film by Shezad Dawood and the pretty ridiculous but funny Diamonds by Sigga Björg Sigurdardottir.

Towards the Possible (Shezad Dawood)

I learned that the Artists’ film is something that must be experienced; even more so than the experimental film. It’s a collaboration between image and sound, and even touch, as the cinema itself sometimes shook from the sounds in the film. Especially Shezad Dawood made heavy use of audio, both as a soundtrack as well as an effect within the film; savage-like characters on the beaches intimate the foreign entities in space-suits just arrived on the soil, but the audience too, by stamping on the rocks. This sound is then multiplied and strengthened through the caves of the surrounding area, with a sense of the monstrous now added. The film depicting a violent collision between past and present as well as the real and surreal, and does so beautifully by flaunting the immense and stunning landscapes of morocco, with its orange sands and blue skies.

However, these types of short films are definitely an acquired taste, and after standing for about an hour, I decided it was time to move on to something lighter.

The 6th collection of comedy short films was shown at the City Screen, so I finished my expedition at the place I started it. Fitting, really. I had come full circle. There were nine different screenings in the Comedy genre, which is the second biggest category after Drama, which spanned 16 different screenings.

This session included a German film, Er und Sie, which was secretly heart-breaking (so much for something lighter). There were also four British shorts which were all moderately funny and evoked some laughter from the audience. However, the Belgian film called Taxistop (Marie Enthoven) had everyone laughing and clapping throughout, because of the sheer ridiculousness of the characters. An older teacher must get to Geneva to give a lecture, and is forced to travel with four other unconventional people and a chicken, which of course goes horribly wrong.

I had always wanted to visit a short film festival before, but moving to York meant I finally was able to do so. The ASFF is a great way to get into short films, as it offers such a great variety of different genres and possibilities to discover: I would have never watched a artist’s film if I had had to look one up first! Those people who are more familar with the medium can pick those filmmakers or genres they are most interested in, and can easily manouver from one screening to the next, discovering all sorts of beautiful alleys and seeing some of the most fascinating buildings in the city on the way.
In short, the ASFF opened up  the world of the short film for me, one I have wanted to discover for such a long time, and the beautiful city of York offered the opportunity to finally take that first step.