by Stephanie Dale
Imagine considering the world through film. Imagine simply stopping and paying attention to what the world has to say. That’s what Cherie Federico, director of Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF), asks us to do.
ASFF is a BAFTA qualifying festival, regarded very highly among those who are part of the film world. The opening night includes a reception to meet other like-minded filmgoers and to watch the director’s selection. The selection included: Seven directed by James Morgan, In Wonderland directed by Christopher Haydon, Fauve directed by Jeremy Comte, Black Sheep directed by Ed Perkins, and The Wayward Wind directed by Monica Thomas and Steve Delahoyde. When I asked Federico about her selection for the opening night, she explained that ‘it’s important to have a balance of tone, and to make sure that I am presenting films that have the messages I want to say. For me, Black Sheep was one of the more challenging films, dealing with racism and one person’s story of how much it affected their life’. Federico went on to add, ‘this film deals with a very heavy and uncomfortable topic, but now is the time to talk about this and to stop racism and hate’. The films selected were challenging and there were important covert, and overt, messages to address and discuss.
The films shown on the opening night each work in their own way to prove that Aesthetica is a film festival that objects to conventions. Whilst Black Sheep deals with a predominant issue of our time, racism; In Wonderland reveals a ten-year relationship in ten minutes. It is a beautiful piece; who’s style reflects that of one’s memories and explains how difficult it can be to say goodbye to the person you love. Seven deals with a protagonist being brave enough to do something different and go against the grain. This has a huge impact in the short film and speaks volumes to viewers who may feel that they cannot question our customs or norms.
ASFF is a chance for filmmakers and lovers of film to connect and debate. The opening night saw Stewart Page, the Pro-Vice Chancellor of York St John’s University, explain how it was a pleasure that the festival is held in York. Boasting 14 venues, it is a truly wonderful way of exploring the cinemas and architectural beauties of the city. The festival keeps growing every year (in scope and size): this year there is a focus on VR and the way this can be used to advance the experiences felt watching a film. VR viewers gain first hand experiences from things they will never do in their lifetime. There is such a beautiful empathy in VR and it is interesting to see the way directors have tapped into this budding area of film.
The opening night was informative, entertaining, and, above all, it confronted societal norms. Indeed, the tone has been set for ASFF and I look forward to seeing how they will outdo themselves next year.