A brooding detective drama, murderous pensioners and some very nifty footwork were all on offer as part of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival’s opening night at City Screen on Wednesday evening.

Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2017

Various venues in York

Nov 8-12

One-day pass: £9.50-£16

More details

Now in its seventh year and extended to five days for the first time, the festival showcases 300 films over 18 different venues across the city, as well as a packed schedule of masterclasses and industry sessions.

This opening night treated us to a sample of the wares on offer, with a chance to see a diverse range of specially selected shorts.

In her introduction, festival director Cherie Federico touched on the current era of huge change and upheaval across the world, and made the point that these films serve as a chronicle of our times, as well as offering a chance to think about our humanity, and the things that connect us.

It certainly can’t have been an easy task picking just five films to represent the broad range of the festival, but the ones presented to us were an entertaining and engaging mix.

In their variety of approaches and their shared enthusiasm for the possibilities of art, life and creativity, they were a good representation of this year’s theme of ‘Inspired By Ideas’.

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For Real tho – trailer

First up was For Real tho by Baptist Penetticobra (Artists’ Film Screening 4) – a likeable post-modern exercise in which the film’s young cast and crew discuss in knowingly ironic style the act of making the film they are (or aren’t) making, right down to getting in an argument with their own subtitles.

This kind of thing could be annoying in the wrong hands, but the insouciant crew are an endearing bunch and this was a fun, irreverent start to proceedings.

Things took a darker turn next with The Peculiar Abilities of Mr Mahler by Paul Philipp (Drama Screening 2). At 29 minutes, this was by far the longest short of the evening, and dealt with a detective investigating the disappearance of a young boy in East Germany in 1987.

The subject matter, setting and sombre look all made this feel like something that you could easily come across on BBC4 on a Saturday night.

It certainly makes for an involving half hour, as the titular Mr Mahler uses his (inevitably unorthodox) methods to find the truth in this well-acted, thoughtful and melancholy crime drama.

This was followed by some light relief in the form of Second To None by Vincent Gallagher (Animation Screening 1) – a charming, inventive and funny stop-motion animation which earned the first round of applause of the night.

A bloodthirsty Wallace and Gromit – Second To None

This tale of a vengeful 110 year old trying to dispatch his limelight-hogging twin brother came across like a more bloodthirsty Wallace and Gromit, with the same blend of ingenious inventions and sly humour.

It also looked fantastic up on the big screen, where its vibrant colours and lovingly handcrafted models were all the more striking.

The fourth film was Backstory by Joschka Laukeninks (Drama Screening 3), a visually impressive film which took its protagonist from the cradle to the grave in under 10 minutes.

Visually impressive – a life in 10 minutes in Backstory

This was an intelligent, compassionate piece, and effective in contrasting the magic, mundane and tragic moments of life – a chaotic but joyous headrush in the good times, a slow and thankless trudge in the bad.

The technical execution was excellent, though given I had just seen a person’s life pass before my eyes, I felt oddly unaffected at the end.

The screenings came to a close with Lil Buck With Icons of Modern Art by Andrew Margetson (Dance Screening 1).

This showcase for the incredibly impressive footwork of Chicago-born dancer Lil Buck follows him through the Fondation Louis Vuitton art gallery in Paris in what looked like a single take.

Incredibly impressive footwork in Lil Buck With Icons of Modern Art

I know next to nothing about dance, but no-one could fail to appreciate the elegance, style and fluidity of Lil Buck’s movements.

He explains in voiceover that his dance style originated in the Memphis rap scene and he went on to blend it with classical ballet training.

This made the piece an appropriate closing offering for a festival which is all about bringing different styles together, and which celebrates the limitless potential of human creativity.

This excellent selection of shorts made me all the more gutted that I’m unable to make the rest of the festival – if you’re about in York this weekend, I’d highly recommend getting out to see some of the many and varied delights on offer.

You can see the full schedule on ASFF’s website, but if you need a starting point, then Aesthetica’s Marketing Coordinator Hannah Skidmore has helpfully provided the recommendations below.

Recommended Screenings

Tough – directed by Jennifer Zheng (Animation Screening 1)
Thurs 9 Nov, City Screen, 14:30-15:30 | Fri 10 Nov, City Screen, 16:30-17:30 | Sat 11 Nov, Yorkshire Museum 12:00-13:00 | Sun 12 Nov, National Centre for Early Music, 10:00-11:00

F**king Bunnies – directed by Teemu Niukkanen (Comedy Screening 3)
Weds 8 Nov, NCEM, 10:00-11:00 | Thurs 9 Nov, City Screen, 10:30-11:30, Fri 10 Nov, 1331, 20:00-21:30 | Sat 11 Nov, Friargate Theatre, 17:45-18:45 | Sun 12 Nov, Yorkshire Museum, 16:00-17:00

Chicken/Egg – directed by James D’Arcy (Comedy Screening 2)
Thurs 9 Nov, Friargate Theatre, 15:00-16:00 | Fri 10 Nov, City Screen, 14:00-15:00 | Sat 11 Nov, YSJU, 15:30-16:30 | Sun 12 Nov, 1331, 19:15-20:15

The Secret World of Foley – directed by Daniel Jewel (Documentary Screening 3)
Weds 8 Nov, NCEM, 18:45-20:15 | Thurs 9 Nov, City Screen, 16:00-17:30 | Fri 10 Nov, 1331, 15:15-16:45 | Sun 12 Nov, Bootham School, 17:30-19:00

Gridlock – directed by Ian Hunt Duffy (Thriller Screening 2)
Thurs 9 Nov, City Screen, 12:15-14:00 | Fri 10 Nov, York Theatre Royal, 11:30-13:15 | Sat 11 Nov, 1331, 17:00-18:45

Die Besonderen Fahigkeiten Des Herrn Mahler (The Peculiar Abilities of Mr Mahler) – directed by Paul Philipp (Drama Screening 2)
Weds 8 Nov, Yorkshire Museum, 11:30-13:00 | Fri 10 Nov, 1331, 12:00-13:30 | Sat 11 Nov, 1331, 21:30-23:00

Best Man – directed by Freddie Hall (Comedy Screening 1)
Weds 8 Nov, Yorkshire Museum, 21:30-22:30 | Thurs 9 Nov, YTR, 21:15-22:15 | Fri 10 Nov, Yorkshire Museum, 10:00-11:00 | Sat 11 Nov, City Screen, 14:30-15:30 | Sunday 12 Nov, City Screen, 10:30-11:30

Recommended Events/Masterclasses

Branded Content: Visualising Campaigns – 9 November, 15:30-16:30, York St John University
Eliot Carroll (Tinderflint TV), whose previous clients include Yves Saint Laurent, Universal, Jaguar and Adidas, delves into the world of branded content, revealing how to keep the client happy whilst developing exciting ideas. This session will offer direct advice on how to collaborate with brands and how to get your project noticed.

Andi Osho: Working Behind & In Front of the Lens – 10 November, 15:30 – 16:30, York Theatre Royal
Andi Osho, award-winning writer, performer, comedian and director (Live At The Apollo and Mock The Week) will discuss multifaceted careers, from getting started in the industry to transitions into different disciplines, as well as her future plans for the short film Amber, which screens at the festival.

Learning the Craft of the Camera Operator – 10 November, 16:00-17:00, York St. John University
The Association of Camera Operators are back to host this popular industry session. Members of the Association have worked on films including, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Skyfall. The session will detail life behind the lens and processes behind the scenes that contribute to the overall feature.

Storytelling & Function: The Role of the Editor – 11 November, 15:30-17:00, York St John University
With credits that include Black Mirror, the Oscar-winning Still Alice, The Two Faces of January, Wuthering Heights and Fish Tank, Nicolas Chaudeurge is an expert in the field of editing. In this unique session, Chaudeurge offers insight into his role, and the difference in shorts and feature films, whilst also commenting on collaborative relationships.

James Beeken

James Beeken

James Beeken is a film fan, Britpop aficionado and appalling cook. He lives in York and in fear of someone remaking Back to the Future