Aesthetica Short Film Festival: Preview

Born from its namesake - the widely distributed art and culture magazine - and having doubled the number of films screening since their first edition in 2011, Aesthetica Short Film Festival returns to York from 6-9 November. Popping up in a plethora of the city's contemporary and historic venues, it boasts a broad programme showcasing everything from narrative shorts to documentaries, artist's films and advertising. Splitting the programme into twelve genre-focused strands such as 'Comedy' and 'Thriller' provides audiences with oriented navigation through the incredibly diverse, 300-strong, selection of films, whilst five additional country focused screenings present the best on offer from filmmakers in Lebanon, France, Japan, Iraq and Germany.

That inclusion of featured country screenings is one of four new elements in the programme, which also includes a fashion focused series of events and screenings, looking at industry concerns such as garment manufacturers and brands like Vivienne Westwood. Elsewhere there is an advertising screening and masterclass with Ridley Scott Associates, which aims to champion the creativity and innovation of the design industry, and a programme of dance films exploring through movement and music themes such as identity and perception.

The festival's strength therefore is in its eclecticism, reflecting an intention to find and share talent from all areas of creative practice. Though the bulk of screenings comprise the narrative strand simply titled 'Drama', which boasts fourteen programmes covering Sci-fi, contemporary love stories and historical epics, it's arguably within the 'Artists' Film' and 'Experimental' selections that Aesthetica's heart truly lies. Themes of time and perspective play out in Experimental Screening 1, which includes Sam Firth's time experiment Stay the Same, and Vincent Vicario's journey into memory, Simulacrae. Screening 6 delves into realms imagined and dreamt, with artist Alex Reynolds' promising 16mm Spinario, which interrogates the relinquishing of power in the performance process.

Dance/drama/thriller I Play Dead by Kaveh Akaber and Lova Eriksson, meanwhile, uses an abandoned space as the site for an exploration of bodily expression. In Artist's Film 6, a programme curated around the theme of interior and exterior space and locations urban and remote, highlights include Sasha Litvintseva's Alluvion, a 'part ethnographic portrait and part science fiction postcard' and Ulf Lundin's 5-9, which uses covert filming and elliptical editing to create a 27 minute dolly shot of an office building in Stockholm. Beyond the films themselves, ASFF also offers industry sessions and special events aimed at offering an insight into the writing, production, promotion, programming and critique of short film forms. What's refreshing about the festival's approach to its industry programme is inclusivity - for the price of a ticket, anyone can access expert information on the editing process – as with BAFTA event, The Craft of Editing with Lisa Gunning (Seven Psychopaths, Nowhere Boy) or Meet the Filmmakers networking event. By dismantling the usual festival divide between industry professionals and regular audiences, ASFF allow the opportunity for so called 'trade secrets' to be demystified, making it easier for anyone just starting out in a career in film to make contacts and share ideas.

Perhaps what's most intriguing about ASFF are the venues used, as the festival takes up residence not only in the city's cinemas – Reel Cinema and City Screen, but historic buildings, theatres, contemporary galleries, hotels and the university campus. With a programme as varied and large as the older Encounters Short Film & Animation Festival, but utilising the city's spaces in a way comparable to smaller festivals like Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival and Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival in the Scottish Borders, ASFF connects with the specificity of its location, allowing perhaps new narratives to be created between the historical and the ephemeral, and making it well worth a visit.

The Aesthetica Short Film Festival runs from 6-9 November 2014 around the city of York. For more info, visit asff.co.uk/.

Harriet Warman


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