The Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2012 Review

It’s been just over a week since the Aesthetica Short Film Festival closed. Following the Closing Night and Awards Ceremony, at which The Sugar Bowl took Best of Fest and Hollow scooped up the People’s Choice award, ASFF has met with great acclaim. Described by Creative England as “one of the innovative arts events in the UK”, this incredible event took over the city of York from 8-11 November, turning the city, which is one Britain’s greatest cultural treasures, into a series of cinemas that screened over 200 international short films, as well as hosting masterclasses and guests screenings from leading industry figures and organisations such as BAFTA, Warp and Channel 4.

Along with The Sugar Bowl, a Canadian documentary focusing on the rise and fall of the sugarcane industry in Negros, Philippine, directed by Rich Williamson and Shasha Nakhai, and Hollow, a sensitive British drama about the nature of drug addiction, directed by Rob Sorrenti, the Closing Night also applauded seven other winners. With one winner for each genre, the overall winners fought off tough competition. The full list of winners include, Photoshopping (dir. Mark Davenport), a dark comedy following an obsession with celebrity photographs, Dylan’s Room (dir. Layke Anderson) took the drama award for his stunningly captured piece that followed the memories of a Mother and Son, Augenblike (dir. Martin Bargiel) an exploration into haunting dreams took best thriller, Let it Go (dir. Ashley Dean), a lighthearted animation of hope and determination won best music video, The Jockstrap Raiders (dir. Mark Nelson) took best animation for their story of a group of underdog misfits who are excluded from the war, best art film went to Reduction Study (Ping Pong) (dir. Joanna Tam) which was a fascinating piece on the perception of identity and the award for best Experimental went to To The Sea (dir. Anna Valdez Hanks/ Anna Blandford), an exploration of routine and humanities response to disaster. Daniel Onyia, one of the filmmakers screening at the festival, summed up the variety of screened films: “The array of quality short films was breathtaking”.

The festival was also praised by prominent local figures. While Cllr James Alexander, Labour leader of City of York Council said: “The Aesthetica Short Film Festival was a great event”, Cllr Sonja Crisp, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Tourism said: “The Aesthetica Short Film Festival is establishing itself as one of the cultural highlights of the city’s calendar’. Meanwhile, Stuart Page, Head of Programme for Media & Film Studies at lead sponsor, York St John University. Page said: “York St John University is proud to have been a partner and sponsor of the 2012 Aesthetica Short Film Festival…It’s fantastic that this international event is being held annually in York, and YSJU are proud to be part of it.” Such comments reflect both the artistic success of ASFF and its remarkable impact on York itself. With well over 1000 people attending the masterclasses alone and thousands of delegates travelling from as far afield as Spain, Serbia and the USA, the city was buzzing with festival goers, with local hotels and restaurants as well as festival venues seeing huge surges in their visitor numbers.

To assess the overall impact of a festival like ASFF accurately, however, one must return to its raison d’être. Cherie Federico, Festival Director, described this year’s aims as follows: “To celebrate independent filmmaking, expand choice for viewers, offer opportunities for engagement with industry professionals and encourage audiences and filmmakers alike to engage in film culture.” ASFF undoubtedly achieved its goals, presenting a celebration of short film that reached out to new and established audiences that also engaged and impressed the industry. While Katie Campbell, Regional Programme Director for BAFTA described the festival as “impressive”, Barry Ryan, Head of Production for Warp Film said: “Well done with the festival – it has a great vibe and everyone has a real passion.”

As such, ASFF 2012 can only be described as a resounding success: an extraordinary film event whose appeal extends beyond the film industry it represents to communities across the UK. A great ambassador for film culture throughout the UK and beyond, it can only promise more in the years to come.

The Aesthetica Short Film Festival ran from the 8 – 11 November and will return to the city of York next year.

1. Collage, courtesy of ASFF.
2. Come to Heaven of Hearts, courtesy of ASFF.
3. The Sugar Bowl, courtesy of ASFF.
4. Reduction Study (Ping Pong), courtesy of ASFF.