Overview of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2022

(Image: Aesthetica Short Film Festival)

This year’s Aesthetica Short Film Festival took place in York from November 1-6 and continues online until November 30. As usual, it was great to attend the festival and catch up with all the big events and things happening in the city during the first week of November. From short films and virtual reality to masterclasses and talks from award-winning industry professionals, there was something for everyone at Aesthetica this year.

Vision sent a few writers to the festival to figure it all out and we’re here now to report on some of the highlights.

One of the best parts of the festival was hearing from some amazing industry professionals. Go to a publishing conference from a publisher whose credits include Belfast and The crown in addition to upcoming TV shows for HBO and Disney+ was particularly insightful. Carly Brown spoke about her early days in the industry, from doing student media in college to starting with sports and the Olympics before becoming associate editor and working her way up to editor.

Other talks we attended included an incredibly compelling talk by one of the VFX supervisors at Framestore, the Oscar-winning VFX company behind big blockbusters like Avengers: Endgame and Blade Runner 2049. Stuart Penn has shared behind-the-scenes footage with us showing the development of visual effects on major productions such as moon knight and Spider-Man: No Coming Home. He additionally has explained all the different roles that work together to create the final VFX that graces our screens and detailed the range of new techniques that are pushing effects and filmmaking into the future.

Earlier this week, composer Jim Williams highlighted his extensive background in film music and the different inspirations film music can draw on. He showed us a number of his works, from horror movies to comedies, and showed the range of decision making involved in matching a piece of music to a scene.

Another fascinating talk was given by Elisa Iannacone, Canon Ambassador and conflict photographer, who shed light on the ethics behind cinematography. She showed historic photographs and noted the ethical concerns behind them, before describing her own journey towards a more ethical form of photographic social change, including the main question of “For whom am I documenting that ? “.

In and among all the wonderful masterclasses, we had time to watch some of the fantastic short films presented at the festival. The ‘Animation 1’ strand had some beautifully animated shorts, including the magnificent Tears of the Seine (Tears of the Seine) showing the peaceful protest of Algerian workers in France in October 1961. With stunning animation and fantastic music, this was definitely a must-watch short.

Another great animation was the 16 minute one Breathless puppets directed by Naaman Azhari which wonderfully tells the story of two dance enthusiasts separated in childhood by the expectations of their cultures and how they reconnect through the drama of the pandemic. Breathless puppets won Best Screenplay at the festival indicating it is definitely one to watch.

The “Comedy 4” session was a notable crowd pleaser. Themed “Family can sometimes screw you up”, the strand featured short films from several countries, including Ireland, the UK and Luxembourg. However, it was the first French story The right words which made the cinema roar with laughter. Set on a bus, it follows 13-year-old Madhi as he finds the courage to talk to his crush Jada, spurred on by annoying older sister Kenza. Hidden among the entertaining visuals and brilliant young performances was a heartfelt message – love always has meaning, regardless of age.

Another unique aspect of the festival was the VR Lab, housed in City Screen’s basement and waiting to immerse visitors in a range of new worlds. We tried Monoliths and Dislocation, which blended a stunning visual environment with compelling stories of identity and disbelief. It was definitely a different experience to see a short film emerge around us from the privacy of our own headphones!

(Image: Aesthetica Short Film Festival)

Away from the big (or small) screens, directors, writers and critics attended a varied program of social events at Aesthetica. It provided a great opportunity to chat with the directors after seeing their films and to get to know all kinds of people who call York home this week. Whether a member of the team for the short film Anaconda trying to sell us on their use of prosthetic penises or the beautiful crowd at the Bolton Film Festival, it was a highlight of each day and reminded us that films don’t just exist on a screen.

1331 Bar and Restaurant was the home of Aesthetica this week. Having a central hub meant you could catch up with other attendees every night. At the mixer on Friday night it was standing room only and that continued into the wee hours. It allowed us to talk to an actor one night, see his movie the next, and catch up later that night. It makes the on-screen action all the more impactful when you can get to know the crew personally and learn about the experiences that led to their film over drinks. Soon you find a group of friends and it becomes a brilliant and essential part of the festival experience.

After a difficult few years for the film industry and the festival circuit, Aesthetica showed the joy of crowded cinemas and shared experiences. In a tense part of one of the thrillers, an audience member gasped loudly, prompting peals of laughter. In another, one of the leads mentioned that there were demons “among us” who also sent the crowd into some kind of terminal online delirium. It’s silly but also important and it has made the Aesthetica Film Festival a home for filmmakers, the general public and us.

About Debra D. Johnson

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