York film fest day two: Children behaving badly

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The trailer for Abuelas: “brilliant documentary”

Review: The Aesthetica Short Film Festival
Day 2: Friday, November 9



I was having trouble deciding which session to go to. I had until 12pm when I had arranged to attend one of the master classes. My choices for 10am were art 1, documentary 1, drama 1, experimental 5 or music video and after looking through the ASFF programme for the 20th time I still couldn’t decide, so I decided to choose the session based on venue.

One of the things I’m trying to do is attend at least one session of every genre and visit every venue at least once. So this morning’s choice was the Guildhall and drama 1. I’d never been there and it was a surprise to find that the films were being shown in the council chamber, full of pomp and oak panelling. Signage to the room was excellent and as I arrived the titles of the first film were just starting so I took my rather uncomfortable seat in the gallery.

The first film was Sunny Boy (2011) by Jane Gull which told the story of Danny who has to live in a world of darkness because of a rare skin condition that makes him sensitive to sunlight. All Danny wants to do is play football in the sunshine and all his father wants to do is protect him.

This fantastic film was spoilt somewhat by about 30 school children stomping into the council chamber half way through. I’m all for encouraging children to see the arts but this was an issue that reared its ugly head throughout the day with school and college children behaving badly or leaving at the most inappropriate times. These films are short why can’t people wait until the end of one film to leave?
Ian’s rating: ★★★★

Next up was Dan Smyth’s Every Good Boy Does Fine (2011) a tale about a reclusive young man who is on the dole but secretly makes violins while fighting with his drunken father. Again this film was very engaging and it amazes me how quickly I cared about the violin maker. In fact all of this first batch of films were very strong.
Ian’s rating: ★★★★

The weakest seem to be La Hegira (2011) a love story where Mohammed leaves his village and his girl to become an illegal immigrant in Spain with his father but maybe this was because it had to followed another illegal immigrant film The Roar Of The Sea (2010) which was so brilliant and moving that I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat.
Ian’s rating: ★★★

The other film in this batch, Hush (2012), was also really good, but nothing could touch The Roar Of The Sea. I was starting to think that if all of the films in the festival were of this quality I might start sounding like a broken record and “everything is brilliant” would become my mantra.
Ian’s rating: ★★★

After leaving the Guildhall I had 30 minutes to wait at the Theatre Royal before my first master class of the day with Barry Ryan, the head of production at Warp Films so I sat in the café and had a cup of tea. When I took my seat in the stalls I was dismayed to be surrounded by college students and more school children who were very noisy and kept shouting to each other before the start.

Barry had the look of an Apple computer executive with his tee-shirt under a shirt and blue jeans, while holding on to a cardboard Costa coffee cup for the hour and a half of his talk but never actually drinking from it.

He gave us a lot of insight about how Warp films works and even gave tips on how to be cool which is “don’t try”. The only problem was the noisy children/students who chatted through the Q&A section although asking them to shush didn’t seem to work.

I had a couple of hours before my next master class so I thought I’d go and explore the little cinema upstairs in White Stuff which was showing music videos on a loop. The cinema seats 12 and as soon as I arrived I was offered a tea or coffee, so I settled for another cup of tea and again seemed to be surrounded by a class of school children. At least they had their teacher with them this time.

I had time to watch nine videos and was slightly disappointed with the music on offer but the visuals were generally stunning. There was only one exceptional song and video and that was Come On for the band Preachers Son with visuals by Vittoria Colonna.
Ian’s rating: Volt by Paul Mumford ★★★★★
Come on by Vittoria Colonna ★★★★★
Road to Recovery ★★
Paul Weller: Dragon Fly ★★★ for visuals for the song
Jamel Defto by Krzystof Skonieczuny ★★★★
Robin Foster:Forgiveness by Peter King & David Proctor ★★★★
Let it Go by Ashley Dean ★★★
!Oye! When I’m Small (remix) by Alex Browning ★★
Black Black Hills: The Celebration ★★

My next master class was at 3pm at York St John University called Art On Film with Ed Atkins and Patrick Ward, which was meant to “explore video art and the boundaries between contemporary practice and traditional filmmaking” – but it failed on so many levels.

The session was chaired by Sam Lackey from the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield. We were told that we would get to see a film not shown before from Atkins & Ward and then have a discussion about contemporary video practice.

Now I am a lover of experimental art but this film Defining Holes had no narrative or story just a load of random images with bits of music seemingly thrown together. In fact I don’t think the film makers understand their own film because they couldn’t explain to us what it was about, which was what I was expecting from the rather laboured conversation that ensued.

I have to say I spent most of the hour bored hoping a well-defined hole would swallow me up.
Ian’s rating:

So it was a pleasure to escape to Ravi Amaratunga’s session (Channel 4) on the media revolution. Ravi was engaging, informative and showed us lots of interesting short form video work. He overran a little but that didn’t matter because we were all so engrossed in what he was telling us.

I’d decided that the last thing I was going to see today was the special screening of BAFTA-nominated films at the Yorkshire Museum so it was off for a quick bite to eat before the 7pm start time. The large auditorium at YM has a fantastically large screen which was useful but I felt the sound system let a couple of the films down as the bass seemed quite boomy and distracting.

The first film we were treated to was Abuelas (2011), a brilliant documentary about how from 1976 to 1983 Argentina’s military dictatorship kidnapped thousands of young men and woman. An estimated 30,000 people were murdered during that time. Children born to imprisoned dissidents were often stolen by their captors and registered as other people’s children.
Ian’s rating: ★★★★★

The second offering was Bobby Yeah by Robert Morgan, a deeply distasteful nightmare world, very much in the David Lynch Eraserhead territory but lacking any finesse. As more gruesome monsters morphed into more disgusting things, I felt it was trying to be shocking for the sake of it. It is brilliantly animated though if too long by a good ten minutes.
Ian’s rating: ★★

"Lacking any finesse" – Bobby Yeah

As for the rest, A Morning Stroll by Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe (2011) is an entertaining witty animation that starts in 1959 and ends up in 2059.
Ian’s rating: ★★★★

Chalk is a fascinating look at children’s gymnastics that has some superb routine performed by the cast.
Ian’s rating: ★★★★

Mwansa The Great (2011) is a lovely film from Zambia about Mwansa and his sisters and their search for some magic mud.

Only Sound Remains (2010) didn’t quite work for me as I wasn’t engaged in the characters.
Ian’s rating: ★★

But Pitch Black Heist (2011) with Liam Cunningham and Michael Fassbender as two professional safe crackers was a delight.
Ian’s rating: ★★★★

"A delight" – Pitch Black Heist

The last film of the evening was Two And Two (2011), an Orwellian school classroom where 2+2=5 with disastrous results.
Ian’s rating: ★★★★

 
This was the end of a tiring but exhilarating day with only a few minor hiccups. The only irritating thing is I’m going to have to sleep with my black plastic festival pass around my wrist until Sunday night.



Ian J Cole
Ian J Cole is a composer, sound designer and producer who splits his time between writing experimental music and being the creative force behind the pop group Katie And The Questions

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