From Star Wars to Shaun the Sheep: York’s short film festival has something for everyone

A still from Schemers, directed by David McLean - a narrative feature finalist in ASFF 2019

A photographer is haunted by a mystery man who keeps appearing in his pictures… “Bring back hanging” becomes reality for a group of inept civil servants… and a troupe of Morris-dancing badgers try to avoid quarantine.

All this can only mean one thing – the Aesthetica Short Film Festival is back in town.

York’s very own film festival returns for its ninth year, ready to delight audiences with a dazzling range of over 400 short films across 11 genres, as well as feature films and trailblazing Virtual Reality projects.

A still from Silvia in the Waves (2018). Directed by Giovana Olmos, the film is a drama finalist in ASFF 2019

Running from Wednesday 6th – Sunday 10th November, the festival offers the chance to sample a huge selection of endlessly inventive filmmaking in a host of York’s finest venues, from the splendour of King’s Manor to the cosy confines of 1331.

Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2019

From comedy to thriller, and from animation to music video, the festival’s typically eclectic selection caters to all tastes – just pick up a festival guide and you’re bound to see something that intrigues you. (I, for one, am looking forward to the one about a group of militant grammar pedants, while Helsinki Mansplaining Massacre sells itself on the title alone.)

Don’t be surprised if you see some familiar faces up on screen, too, with shorts including performances from the likes of Alison Steadman, Timothy Spall, and the good Doctor herself, Jodie Whittaker.

Younger film fans are well catered for by the Family Friendly screenings, which this year include a 45 minute blow-out of kids’ favourite Hey Duggee.

Feature films, masterclasses and VR

Meanwhile, the festival’s programme of feature films includes the highly-rated likes of this year’s moon-landing documentary Apollo 11 and acid house celebration Everybody in the Place, alongside a compelling selection of works by up-and-coming filmmakers.

As ever, it’s not just about the films – the five-day festival also offers a packed programme of masterclasses and panel sessions with industry professionals, alongside pitching and networking sessions for budding filmmakers.

This year’s talks include Imagining New Worlds: Industrial Light & Magic. Industrial Light & Magic is George Lucas Film’s VFX and animation studio, with recent blockbuster projects including Solo: A Star Wars Story and Spider-Man: Far From Home.

VFX supervisor Julian Foddy will speak about techniques used to create 3D worlds, memorable characters and unforgettable experiences.

Other talks include a look behind the scenes with Shaun the Sheep creators Aardman Animation, and world-famous photographer Rankin in conversation.

The festival line-up also sees the return of its innovative Virtual Reality projects, following their successful introduction last year. The Screen School VR Lab and 360° Cinema offer viewers a new kind of immersive experience, giving you the chance to join an interstellar flight or a trek to the top of Everest.

With so much on offer, knowing where to start can be a challenge – so here’s our handy five-point guide to help you get the most out of the festival…

Five Top Tips for ASFF 2019

If you’re looking for entertainment – go for a comedy or animation screening. Many of the most straightforwardly enjoyable shorts can be found here, alongside some intriguing curveballs.

If you want to be surprised – try checking out documentary or artists’ film. Some of the strongest, strangest and most memorable shorts I saw last year were in these categories.

In the mood for some shocks and scares? Then head to a thriller screening for strange, twisted tales of the unexpected. (It almost goes without saying, but for maximum ‘late-night drive-in’ effect, pick an evening screening.)

A still from Needletail (2019), directed by Alice Hamilton – a drama finalist in ASFF 2019

If you have limited time and/or budget – you can catch a single screening (usually 5-7 shorts apiece) for £5 – and if you like what you see, you can trade it in for a day pass (or multi-day pass) and get a £5 discount. Plus – if you’re a York Card holder, then Explore York is hosting a Videotheque where you can watch any film from the festival – and it’s free for card holders between 13:00 – 14:00 each day.

That said, a day pass is definitely the best way to get the full festival experience. You can spend your day darting in and out of darkened rooms across town, mixing and matching genres as you go – plus it gives you more freedom to take a punt on something new, which at the end of the day is what ASFF’s all about. Now, where can I find those Morris-dancing badgers?

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