Who won the prizes in York’s biggest ever Aesthetica Short Film Festival?

Alfie Barker’s Hanging On: Best Of Festival Award winner at November’s Aesthetica Short Film Festival

ALFIE Barker’s docu-drama Hanging On has won the Best of Festival Award at the 2021 Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York.

Barker’s film, spotlighting the strength of community in a neighbourhood that unites when forced to the edge of extinction, also received the Best Documentary Award at November 7’s awards ceremony at the Yorkshire Museum.

Maria Martinez Bayona won a hattrick of awards for Such Small Hands – Best Thriller, Best Director and Best Cinematography – with its account of an unchecked pack mentality alienating a new arrival at a girls’ orphanage, whereupon she invents a manipulative game to swing the balance of power.

Best Advertising Award winner: Fiona Jane Burgess’s The North Face X Gucci

The Best Advertising Award went to the director’s cut of Fiona Jane Burgess’s The North Face X Gucci, Presented By Highsnobiety, in which a new generation of birdwatching enthusiasts are breaking the stereotypes of what outdoor recreation looks like and who it is for.

Frédéric Schuld’s The Chimney Swift won the Best Animation Award with its 19th century European tale of a child climbing up a chimney while a bird sails down into it to build a nest in an encounter with no way back.

The Best Artists’ Film Award went to Aleksander Johan Andreassen for Centarium, a film he staged and filmed in shopping centres during mostly normal opening hours as a chain of events is sparked by a mannequin coming to life. Andreassen’s camera follows two characters’ movements.

Best Comedy Award winner: David Dearlove’s Taj Mahal Presents…A Short Film

David Dearlove’s Taj Mahal Presents…A Short Film, a “short film for people who don’t like short films”, was very much liked by the judging panel, who gave it the Best Comedy Award. BAFTA-nominated actor and director Phil Davis stars in this humorous swipe at a genre that “often seems longer than it is short.”

Clap hands for Joshua Ben-Tovim and Roseanna Anderson’s Blast, winner of the Best Dance Award for a film that takes its cue from the growth of radical ideologies and modern art in London, 1914. From here on, they consider the ways in which we “progress” as a species.

The Best Documentary Feature, Daniel Edelstyn and Hilary Powell’s Bank Job, focuses on an unlikely team, seemingly insurmountable odds, even explosions, as they take steps towards a future wherein money works for us all. This mischievous film follows a community making its own currency.

Best Documentary Feature winner: Daniel Edelstyn and Hilary Powell’s Bank Job

The Best Drama Award winner, Romain Dumont’s See You Garbage!, is a dramatic comedy about garbage collectors Élie, Nino and Belz being surprised to be invited for Christmas at the house of the Prime Minister and the First Lady.

The Best Experimental Award, Michelle Williams Gamaker’s The Bang Straws, considers the violent mechanisms of 20th century studio films, taking Anna May Wong as its starting point to revisit the casting discrimination that she experienced.

The Best Fashion Award winner, Elisha Smith-Leverock’s Rejoice Resist “celebrates and shows Black pleasure as the ultimate form of resistance”, highlighting the importance of allowing yourself to feel joy in the face of adversity.

The Best Fashion Award winner: Elisha Smith-Leverock’s Rejoice Resist

Leah Vlemmiks’s Best Music Video Award winner, Tesfay, uses dance, narrative and documentary to tell the story of Witch Prophet’s late grandfather, Tesfay, who raised five daughters as a single father in Ethiopia.

Ta Pu Chen’s The Cleaner shone out at the awards ceremony with prizes for Best Narrative Feature and Best Screenplay. In the film, death-scene cleaner Yan-Ting and ex-convict Ah-Chun team up with En-Ya, who was born with a silver spoon attached, to not only scrub places but also clear uneasiness and grudges.

In the Best VR & 360 Award winner, Joséphine Derobe’s Meet Mortaza, 24-year-old Mortaza had to flee Afghanistan because he was sentenced to death by the religious authorities. Forced into exile, Mortaza will strive to reach Europe to ask for asylum.

Best Animation Award winner: Frédéric Schuld’s The Chimney Swift

The Best Editing Award was awarded to Wang Yuyan’s One Thousand And One Attempts To Be An Ocean, a film with the advice: “If you don’t want to drown, be an ocean” as it reflects on the experience of being unable to see the world with depth perception.

The ASFF’s Hybrid and Virtual pass-holders have a deadline of November 30 to vote for their favourite film online, via the festival’s virtual platform, for The People’s Choice Award. “Just look out for the ‘Vote Now’ button when streaming great independent cinema this month,” comes the advice.

All the prize-winning films can be watched on ASFF’s Stream On Demand online service until November 30. For more details on how to watch, go to: asff.co.uk/tickets.

“This festival is a unique experience that you can’t get anywhere else,” says Aesthetica Short Film Festival director

Aesthetica Short Film Festival director Cherie Federico

NEXT year will mark the 20th anniversary of Cherie Federico moving from New York to York.

By then, the founder of Aesthetica Magazine, the Aesthetica Short Film Festival and Aesthetica Arts Prize will have lived longer in her adopted home city than her native United States.

In 2002, she came to York to study at York St John University and…stayed, seeing possibilities within these historic city walls for artistic innovation.

This is her busiest week of the year, hosting the Aesthetica Short Film Festival, now in its 11th year and bigger than ever, running from Tuesday to Sunday – and online until November 30 – with a remarkable 500 films; themed strands and guest programmes; masterclasses; an industry marketplace; VR (virtual reality) lab; interactive media lab; a celebration of the New Wave of filmmakers; mentoring sessions; networking opportunities and a Sunday awards ceremony.

“It’s become a very significant British film festival, and our ticket sales are healthier than ever,” says Cherie, as the festival restores live screenings in 2021 after last year’s entirely digital event for home viewing only. This year, you can watch in person or online or a hybrid combination of the two each day.

“People are buying hybrid passes to be able to soak up everything in the city – films, masterclasses, panels and discussions – over the six days and also to have full access to the virtual platform to catch up on films and masterclasses until the end of the month.

“There are more films showing than ever before because we’re offering the chance to experience them in different ways; some programmes are online only, some are in-person only, so there are some distinctive programmes, but there’s also cross-pollination between the two formats.

“The thing that has changed this year is that we’ve organised the films into six strands, which came about in response to the pandemic.”

ASFF’s films span documentary; advertising; narrative; animation; artists’ film; comedy; dance; drama; experimental; family friendly; fashion; music video and thriller. “The programme is still organised thematically by genre, but these films now move into different strands too,” says Cherie.

“I was thinking, ‘what are the key things that unite the films in this year’s programme?’, and I came up with How It Was, How It Is, How It Will Be, thinking about the past, present and future, focusing on extraordinary stories in the everyday.

“Strand Two, Humanity On The Edge, addresses ‘Crisis’, whether looking at the effect of climate change or the pandemic; Black Lives Matter;  LGBTQ+ issues; human rights; women’s safety. There is no more ‘normal’. It’s an idea that’s become redundant. Crisis has become a defining characteristic of life in the 21st century.”

Cherie continues: “Strand 3, When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade, is about hope, optimism, positivity. The glass is half full, as we take a lighter look at life to remind us of all the joy and beauty around us, as we take a moment to admire the power and resilience of the everyday person.

“Strand 4, Pleased To Meet You, explores Connections, how relationships are formed, and considers how the digital age has altered the way we build, maintain and cut ties, maybe irrevocably.

“Strand 5, Mirror, Mirror, looks at identity, how we decide who we are or, perhaps, who we want to be;  how you see yourself, whether you’re holding a mirror up to society or to yourself, and how the way you see yourself is often very different to the way other people see you.”

The sixth strand, Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free, addresses how segregation, racism, marginalisation and discrimination are systemic issues deep-rooted within society. “They are part of many people’s daily experiences,” says Cherie. “We must recognise that in the fight to establish true equality.”

In further festival highlights, New Wave introduces the next generation of filmmakers, with ASFF being the only British festival to offer a strand dedicated to graduate filmmakers, under such titles as The Art Of Limitation: Creativity Under Constraints (Saturday, City Screen, 3.30pm to 5.30pm).

The Guest Programmes have been curated by Rachel Pronger, originally from Bradford and now living and working in Berlin after deciding “it’s now or never to move”. 9/11, Twenty Years On is the subject of three programmes at Bootham School: Memories, Monuments (earlier today); In Search Of (Saturday, 3.30pm) and The Fallout (Sunday, 2pm).

“Part One looks at how did we get to the point where people steered planes into the Twin Towers; Part Two covers the day itself; Part Three considers how that moment led to a rise in populism and nationalism, and how you end up with Trump in the White House,” says Cherie. “That moment, 9/11,  galvanised some very dangerous attitudes harking back to 1939.”

Look out for a sound installation at Spark: York, a new location for the 2021 festival, where the sound of a rainforest is accompanied by a CO2 monitor. “The more people that fill the room, the quieter the room becomes,” says Cherie.

For the first time since the first lockdown in March 2020, The Basement at City Screen, York, is open,  playing host to the VR Lab for ten 360-degree films and six immersive experiences each day from 11am to 8pm.

The week’s masterclasses are welcoming the likes of filmmaker Peter Strickland (Katalin Vargo, Duke Of Burgundy); rising director Prano Bailey-Bond (Best Experimental Film winner for Man vs Sand at 2013 ASFF; debut feature film Censor); Hyena writer-director Gerard Johnson; actor Maxine Peake, discussing “acting as authorship”, and The Father producer David Parfitt.

So too are: stop-motion director Anthony Farquhar-Smith (Fantastic Mr Fox, Corpse Bride); rising star Gamba Cole (from Stephen Merchant’s BBC series The Outlaws ); Industrial Light & Magic’s VFX supervisor Julian Foddy and feminist filmmaker Sally Potter (Orlando, The Road Not Taken).

Still to come are: Senna, Amy and Diego Maradona documentary filmmaker Asif Kapadia (Yorkshire Museum, Saturday, 3pm); God’s Own Country and Ammonite writer-director Francis Lee, the Yorkshireman who “doesn’t often do” such Close Up encounters (Yorkshire Museum, Saturday, 6pm) and Alice Seabright, who has written and directed episodes of Netflix hit Sex Education (Yorkshire Museum, Saturday, 6.30pm).

A Sunday streaming at 1pm brings together actor and Primetime founder Victoria Emslie and Lizzy Talbot, intimacy coordinator for Bridgerton, who will discuss the tasks and techniques involved when working with an intimacy coordinator, one of the stage and screen’s increasingly important new roles.

“It’s quite remarkable how many big names we have taking part in the festival,” says Cherie. “It’s a huge, huge festival and it’s really important for people in York to realise the scope and the breadth of a festival that takes place in their city.

“It’s major cultural programming, and I’m proud of the dynamic we bring to the city’s cultural agenda. It’s extraordinary to be able to do this and we’re proud that we brought £2 million to the York economy in 2019, the last time we had a live festival.

“This festival is a unique experience that you can’t get anywhere else, and that’s what makes it so special: the combination of films, the masterclasses and the venues around the city; the union of the historic and the contemporary.”

Please note, ASFF is applying a stringent Covid-safety policy. “For admission, if you have had two jabs, you must show your NHS Covid pass; if not, you must have proof of a negative Lateral Flow Test that day.  There are no exemptions,” says Cherie. “We’re determined to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 at the festival.”

For full details on the 2021 Aesthetica Short Film Festival programme, go to: asff.co.uk.

Cherie Federico, director of Aesthetica Short Film Festival, is this week’s special guest for Chalmers & Hutch’s arts podcast

Cherie Federico: Aesthetica Short Film Festival director

THE 11th Aesthetica Short Film Festival is running in York this week and online until November 30. No better time for Two Big Egos In A Small Car podcasters Chalmers & Hutch to invite director Cherie Federico for a chat about York’s fiesta of film.

Under discussion too in Episode 63 are: Adele’s algorithms; The Young’uns’ gig theatre in The Ballad Of Johnny Longstaff at York Theatre Royal, and are Public Service Broadcasting’s powers of Bright Magic fading?

To listen, head to: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1187561/9485479

Director Cherie Federico’s Ten To See at 2021 Aesthetica Short Film Festival

David Blank feat. Pinksand: Foreplay, music video, directed by Delia Simmonetti, showing at the 2021 Aesthetica Short Film Festival

THE 2021 Aesthetica Short Film Festival opens in York tomorrow with the invitation to “discover new cinema”.

In its 11th year, the BAFTA-recognised festival takes the form of a hybrid event after being entirely online in Covid-impeded 2020, now combining a live festival in York this week with a longer-running virtual event online.

Cinema screenings and live events, such as masterclasses, are taking place from tomorrow until Sunday, spread across multiple venues, while the digital platform offers live-streamed events from York, a range of virtual masterclasses and On Demand film programmes, available until November 30.

Under the hybrid umbrella, the festival can be attended in three ways: in person, virtually or through a mixture of both, with tickets on sale at asff.co.uk/tickets/.

To view the programme, featuring no fewer than 500 films, head to: issuu.com/aesthetica_magazine/docs/aesthetica-short-film-festival-2021?fr=sNzFhOTQwNTI0MjM.

Aesthetica Short Film Festival director Cherie Federico

Here are director Cherie Federico’s Ten To See recommendations for the 2021 Aesthetica Short Film Festival:


1. Daily film programmes: Official Selection
ASFF has six thematic film strands this year, released online and screening in cinemas. Each strand features multiple genres of film, including comedy, drama, documentary, animation and thriller. Short films, feature films and VR (virtual reality) films are available to watch On Demand and in cinemas. For more details, go to:  and copy: asff.co.uk/film-programme/.

2. VR Lab and associated panel discussions:
ATTENDEES can experience virtual reality and 360 films at the VR Lab in York or at home with a headset. Festival panels with industry experts offer the chance to learn more about cutting-edge technologies in filmmaking.  Go to: asff.co.uk/vr-lab/.

3. Masterclasses 

EVERY year, ASFF welcomes industry leaders from assorted disciplines to discuss their craft, offering the opportunity to gain first-hand insights in direction, animation, VFX (visual effects), documentary production and cinematography. This year’s line-up includes speakers from the BBC, Film4, Channel 4 and the Guardian.

From Adaption To Oscar Nomination: Sally Potter OBE, November 5, Yorkshire Museum and live-streamed
LEGENDARY English director Sally Potter’s ground-breaking films have earned her a rightful place in cinema history. Trained as a dancer, Potter moved into film in the 1970s, forging a reputation as a fiercely feminist filmmaker with The Golddiggers, Orlando and The Party.

Filmmaker Sally Potter

Her latest non-linear drama, 2020’s The Road Not Taken, demonstrates how she remains a filmmaker of rare vision and imagination. Potter’s discussion with host Mia Bays, of Birds’ Eye View, will span five decades. For more details, visit: asff.co.uk/all-masterclasses/.

4. Masterclass: Industrial Light & Magic: Fantastic Universes, November 5, Yorkshire Museum and live-streamed

AS the visual effects and animation studio for Lucasfilm, Industrial Light & Magic has been responsible for building some of the most memorable and magical worlds in modern cinema. VFX supervisor Julian Foddy, who has worked on blockbusters such as Fast & Furious 9, The Mandalorian and the forthcoming Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, presents a masterclass that will illuminate this fascinating area of post-production.

For more details on Foddy’s compelling insight into the hard work and innovation that it takes to build captivating and convincing universes, head to: asff.co.uk/all-masterclasses/.

5. Masterclass: Striking Portraits: Documentaries That Change The World, Asif Kapadia, November 6, Yorkshire Museum and live-streamed

ACADEMY Award, four-time BAFTA-winning and Grierson Award-garlanded filmmaker Asif Kapadia has worked across both fiction and documentary, with credits such as The Warrior (starring the late, great Irrfan Khan), Senna, Amy and 2019’s Diego Maradona.

In this illustrated masterclass with Jason Wood, Kapadia discusses his extensive career, his influences, his hopes for a more diverse industry and his pioneering work in creating influential portraits of often flawed and troubled icons. More details can be found at: asff.co.uk/all-masterclasses/.



6. Guest Programme: Imperial War Museum

IMPERIAL War Museum presents a programme of archive footage under the title of How The Past Is Presented: Geopolitics in Iraq and the Gulf.  More details: asff.co.uk/film-programme/#GuestProgrammes.

Vocalist and sound artist Yifeat Ziv: Sound installation at Aesthetica Short Film Festival

7. Guest Programme: 9/11, Twenty Years On
AESTHETICA marks 20 years since the attack on the Twin Towers, New York, with a three-part programme of films examining its impact and aftermath. More details: asff.co.uk/film-programme/#GuestProgrammes.

8. Family Friendly Screenings

AESTHETICSA believes film is for everyone. These family-friendly programmes are designed for four to 12-year-olds, although they touch on emotions and offer layers of meaning for adults and carers alike, featuring animations, comedies and age-appropriate dramas. More details: asff.co.uk/film-programme/#FamilyFriendly

9. Sound Installation, November 5 and 6, Spark:York

EXPERIMENTAL vocalist and sound artist Yifeat Ziv presents a multi-speaker sound piece entitled Amazonian Traces Of Self, based on her experience in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. More details: issuu.com/aesthetica_magazine/docs/aesthetica-short-film-festival-2021?fr=sNzFhOTQwNTI0MjM

10. Industry Marketplace

UNIQUE to ASFF, the Industry Marketplace is a vital meeting space for established and aspiring filmmakers, industry professionals, academics, students and film-lovers. The 2021 event welcomes representatives from film festivals, universities and casting companies as well as strategists, consultants and mentors, in person on November 5 and online until November 30. More details: asff.co.uk/industry-marketplace/.

More Things To Do in and around York and at home in 2021, whatever barriers may yet lie ahead. List No 23, courtesy of The Press

Grayson Perry: Two shows in York in 2021; one an exhibition of “Lost Pots” at York Art Gallery, the other, his existentialist gig, A Show For Normal People, at York Barbican

AFTER a year where killjoy Covid-19 re-wrote the arts and events diary over and over again, here comes 2021, when the pandemic will still have a Red Pen influence.

Armed with a pantomime fairy’s magic wand rather than Madame Arcati’s crystal ball from Blithe Spirit, when what we need is a jab in the arm pronto, Charles Hutchinson picks out potential highlights from the New Year ahead that York will start in Tier 3.

Velma Celli: Had planned to present A Brief History Of Drag at Theatre @41 Monkgate in January; now heading online at home instead

Back on screen: Velma Celli, Large & Lit In Lockdown Again, streaming on January 8

AFTER his “Fleshius Creepius” panto villain in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk, Ian Stroughair was planning to pull on his drag rags for a live Velma Celli show in January, and maybe more shows to follow, at his adopted winter home of Theatre @41 Monkgate.

Instead, he writes: “Darlings, as we head back into a lockdown in York, I am back on the streaming! My first show is next Friday at 8pm. I would love you to join me for an hour of camp cabaret fun! Get those requests and shout-outs in!” Tickets for Virtual Velma start at £10 via http://bit.ly/3nVaa4N; expect an online show every Friday from Ian’s new riverside abode.

Shed Seven: Headlining all-Yorkshire bill at The Piece Hall, Halifax, in the summer

Open-air one-off event of the summer: Shed Seven, The Piece Hall, Halifax, June 26

FRESH from releasing live album Another Night, Another Town as a reminder of what everyone has had to miss in 2020, Shed Seven have confirmed their Piece Hall headliner in Halifax has been rearranged for next summer.

The Sheds have picked an all-Yorkshire support bill of Leeds bands The Wedding Present and The Pigeon Detectives and fast-rising fellow York act Skylights. For tickets, go to lunatickets.co.uk or seetickets.com.

Cocktail Party 1989, copyright of Grayson Perry/Victoria Miro, from the Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years exhibition, opening at CoCA, York Art Gallery, in May

Most anticipated York exhibition of 2021: Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years, York Art Gallery, May 28 to September 5

CHANNEL 4’s  champion of people’s art in lockdown, Grayson Perry, will present his Covid-crocked 2020 exhibition of “lost pots” at the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) next spring and summer instead.

The Pre-Therapy Years reassembles Perry’s earliest forays into ceramics; 70 “explosive and creative works” he made between 1982 and 1994. Look out too for the potter, painter, TV presenter and social commentator’s existentialist September 6 gig at York Barbican: Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People, wherein he will “distract you from the very meaninglessness of life in the way only a man in a dress can”.

Chris Moreno: No festive cheer at Christmas, but now he looks forward to presenting The Great Yorkshire Easter Pantomime, Aladdin, on Knavesmire, York, in spring 2021

A pantomime in the spring? Yes, The Great Yorkshire Easter Pantomime in a tent on Knavesmire, York, March 19 to April 11

CHRIS Moreno, director of Three Bears’ Productions four pantomimes at the Grand Opera House from 2016 to 2019, will direct York’s first ever “tentomime”, Aladdin, this spring with a cast of “21 colourful characters”.

The Great Yorkshire Easter Pantomime will be presented in the luxurious, heated Tented Palace, Knavesmire, in a socially distanced configuration compliant with Covid-19 guidance.

The big top will have a capacity of 976 in tiered, cushioned seating, while the stage will span 50 metres, comprising a palace façade, projected scenery and magical special effects. Look out for the flying carpets.

Going solo: Julie Hesmondhalgh in The Greatest Play In The History Of The World at York Theatre Royal from February 16

Falling in love again with theatre: The Love Season at York Theatre Royal, February 14 to April 21

ON December 15, York Theatre Royal announced plans to reopen on St Valentine’s Day for The Love Season, with the audience capacity reduced from 750 to a socially distanced 345.

Full details will be confirmed in the New Year with tickets going on sale on January 8, and that remains the case, says chief executive Tom Bird, after hearing yesterday afternoon’s statement to the House of Commons by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“We’re carrying on with our plans, including presenting Coronation Street and Broadchurch actor Julie Hesmondhalgh in husband Ian Kershaw’s one-woman play, The Greatest Play In The History Of The World, from February 16 to 20,” he confirmed.

Van Morrison: A brace of bracing nights at York Barbican in May

Six of the best at York Barbican in 2021

YORK Barbican has remained closed since the March lockdown, foregoing even the UK Snooker Championships in November and December.

A reopening date is yet to be announced but mark these shows in your diary, if only in pencil: Rob Brydon, A Night Of Songs & Laughter, April 14; Jimmy Carr, Terribly Funny, May 2; country duo The Shires, May 23; Van Morrison, May 25 and 26; Paul Weller, June 29, and Rufus Wainwright, Unfollow The Rules Tour, October 13.

Ceramicist Beccy Ridsdel: Looking forward to the 20th anniversary of York Open Studios

Anniversary celebration of the year: York Open Studios, April 17 and 18; 24 and 25, 10am to 5pm

2020 turned into a virtual Open Studios with displays online and in windows, but already 140 artists and makers are confirmed for the 20th anniversary event in the spring when they will show and sell their work within their homes and workspaces.

Many of 2020’s selected artists have deferred their space to 2021, but new additions will be announced soon, the website teases. “We’re channelling the optimism and enthusiasm from all our artists to ensure this year’s 20th show is one of the best,” says event co-founder and ceramicist Beccy Ridsdel.

Dr Delma Tomlin: Administrative director of the 2021 York Early Music Festival, running from July 9 to 17

And what about?

Festivals galore, as always, in the self-anointed “City of Festivals”. Coming up are the Jorvik Viking Festival; York Fashion Week; York Literature Festival; York Early Music Festival; York Festival of Ideas, the Aesthetica Short Film Festival and more besides. 

Who won the awards at the 2020 online Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York?

Double winner: Maija Blåfield’s The Fantastic won both the Best Of Fest and Best Documentary awards on Sunday at the 2020 Aesthetica Short Film Festival

MAIJA Blåfield’s aptly named The Fantastic has won the Best of Fest at the 2020 tenth anniversary online edition of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival.

More than 300 films competed for the awards in the BAFTA Recognised festival in York, ranging from poignant documentaries that tap into the climate crisis to touching dramas about loss and forgiveness.

At Sunday evening’s close of the six-day festival, the live-streamed awards ceremony was hosted by regular master of ceremonies Greg McGee, following the judging by experts from Film4, BFI Network, ICA London and Nowness.

Winning awards at ASFF can bolster the success of the stand-out films, as shown by past winners going to receive Oscars, such as Chris Overton’s sweet-natured The Silent Child and Benjamin Cleary’s Stutterer.

The Conversation: Winner of the Best Dance award

Keep an eye out for The Fantastic after Maija Blåfield’s film garnered both the Best of Fest and Best Documentary awards. In this short, eight former North Koreans discuss illegal foreign movies they watched in their homeland. How did they imagine the reality based on fictional films? The Fantastic is not about North Korea, Blåfield says.

Further awards went to:

Hijack Visionary Filmmaker Award

Thinking About The Weather, directed by Gardar Thor Thorkelsson

DESPERATE to resolve his anxieties about the looming climate apocalypse, the filmmaker embarks on an odyssey around Britain, speaking to coastal inhabitants resting on a rising coastline, as well as Extinction Rebellion protestors.

Safe Water: Winner of the Best Advertising Award

Best Advertising

Safe Water, directed by Mario Dahl

A GIRLl walks right to the edge of the board, breathing deeply, ready to make the biggest jump of her life, but what awaits her down there? Safe water is more important than ever.

Best Animation

The Passerby, directed by Pieter Coudyzer

ON a summer’s day, the paths of two boys cross unexpectedly. The Passerby considers what happens when two lives become intertwined and the possibilities emerge of a new journey together.

The Passerby: Winner of the Best Animation award

Best Artists’ Film

Factory Talk, directed by Lucie Rachel and Chrissie Hyde

FACTORY Talk is an intergenerational conversation about identity, sexuality and masculinity. Through the clanging of metal, they make small talk, but the dialogue turns away from mere nostalgia.

Best Comedy

Maradona’s Legs, directed by Firas Khoury

DURING the 1990 World Cup, two Palestinian boys are looking for Maradona’s Legs: the last missing sticker they need to complete their World Cup album and win a free Atari.

Maradona’s Legs: Winner of the Best Comedy award

Best Dance

The Conversation, directed by Lanre Malaolu

THROUGH a dynamic fusion of movement and dialogue, The Conversation explores the challenges black people experience when communicating their racial experience to white partners.

Best Drama

The Present, directed by Farah Nabulsi

ON his wedding anniversary, Yusef and his daughter Yasmine set out to the West Bank to buy a gift. Between the soldiers, roads and checkpoints, how easy is it really to go shopping?

Softer: Winner of the Best Experimental award

Best Experimental

Softer, directed by Ayanna Dozier

DOZIER examines the demands that black women’s bodies be made “softer” – be that in their voice, manners, or, critically, their hair. This experimental short plays on grooming rituals.

Best Fashion

Baba, directed by Sarah Blok and Lisa Konno

A COMBINATION of design and documentary, blending elements of truth, fiction and constructed narrative. Baba provides a surreal but nonetheless light-hearted portrait of a Turkish immigrant.

Night Bus: Winner of the Best Thriller award

Best Music Video

Adventure, directed by Zak Marx

ADVENTURE explores the world of competitive moto-racing in finely textured, surreal miniature. It follows the #2 rider as he ruminates in the shadows of world champion Jammin’ Jackie Hudson.

Best Thriller

Night Bus, directed by Jessica Ashworth and Henrietta Ashworth

DRIVING through the nocturnal streets of London on the eve of her 30th birthday, a night-bus driver discovers a supernatural entity who has boarded her vehicle and threatens to stay.

VR Free: Winner of the Best 360 Film award

Best 360 Film

VR Free, directed by Milad Tangshir

VR Free explores the nature of incarceration while capturing the intimate reactions of inmates as they encounter virtual reality and immersive videos of life outside of prison.

Best Feature – Documentary

Neighbors, directed by Tomislav Zaja

AN observational documentary about people who experience mental illness but are leaving their institution after decades spent in isolation. Zaja’s film follows the individuals as they venture out into the big unknown.

Neighbors: Winner of the Best Feature – Documentary award

Best Feature – Narrative

How To Stop A Recurring Dream, directed by Edward Morris

FACED with a split custody break up, a family’s older daughter kidnaps her hostile sister in order to embark on a journey and reconnect before they are forced to part. Shot in and around locations pertinent to the director’s childhood.

York Youth Award

Talia, directed by Cara Bamford

TALIA loves nature. She’s always looking for new ways to slip out of the house, exploring the world beyond her front garden. But after being caught, her father forbids her to leave without permission.

One award is yet to decided: Festival Pass Holders can vote for the People’s Choice Award until November 30. To do so, they must choose their favourite film by clicking the “Vote Now” button within each ASFF programme.

“So pleased with the films this year”: Aesthetica Short Film Festival director Cherie Federico

In her closing speech on Sunday, ASFF director Cherie Federico said: “I am so pleased with the films this year: they are talking about topics that are so important to me, as a person, a mother, a friend…a festival director. 

“Equality. It’s just one word but, for me, it is the most important word in all languages. It means that the world has equilibrium and that we are joined rather than divided. 

“There is only one future and one way out of this pandemic and that is it: we just break down all barriers and remember we are one. This is our time, right now on Planet Earth. It’s incredibly powerful when you digest it.” 

American Cherie, a New Yorker who crossed the Big Pond to study at York St John University and never left York, turned her thoughts to the fractious US election. “I didn’t realise how much Trump’s presidency affected me until Biden won. I cried. It was an overwhelming sense of relief that we could turn a corner, we could end a fascist regime masquerading as a democracy. 

The Present: Winner of the Best Drama award

“We could overcome all the injustices, racism and prejudice. I am be proud of who I am and where I come from again.”

Cherie continued: “I cannot even begin to explain how this makes me feel. We were heading somewhere that mirrored 1930s’ Europe and I found it terrifying. It would keep me awake at night. 

“I am so very grateful that the hate will now end. I know it’s just the beginning because you can’t undo some of that which has been done, but we can try and that gives me hope.” 

Returning to matters ASFF, Cherie had wanted to host a street party in York to mark the tenth anniversary. “Instead, it’s me in my office by myself, but I know that you are there and have been enjoying our masterclasses, film programmes and everything that is on offer,” she said after Covid-19 enforced the online edition. All of those session are On Demand until the end of the month.” 

Thinking About The Weather: Winner of the Hijack Visionary Filmmaker Award

Looking ahead to ASFF 11, Cherie signed off: “Until 2021, when we can hug, kiss, dance and laugh in the streets! We must all come together in person and celebrate equality, creativity and diversity.” 

Greg McGee, ever lyrical co-owner of According To McGee, hosted the live-streamed awards ceremony from his Tower Street gallery.

Introducing the event, he said: “This year, the pandemic has subordinated everything in its path. Most of the consequences have been dreadful. Some have been tentatively positive and conversely more human.

“Nowhere else has that been more explicit than cinema. It’s your creativity and new narratives that are making life in Lockdown bearable. In terms of quality, this has been the best ASFF yet, and never has it been more crucial or vital.”

Greg McGee: Hosting the live-streamed Aesthetica Short Film Festival awards ceremony from his gallery, According To McGee on Sunday evening

Greg continued: “The tenth-year anniversary is not the Great Gatsby party we would have liked, but the films themselves vindicate what has been a decade of evolving, striving quality. “One of the most sensitive litmus tests of any genre is how well it exports. There are approximately 50 countries represented in this year’s ASFF, such as USA, Canada, Australia, Israel, Lebanon, France, Spain, Denmark, China.

“Every one of the films have connected and have lost none of their power through the intimacy of being watched at home. This year’s festival has really shown us the power of modern film, and how it can sensitise us, change us, enhance us, or quicken the beat of your heart, and I have to say nowhere is that more elegantly distilled than in Aesthetica Short Film Festival. Here’s to the next 10 years.”

Addressing the online audience of film-makers and film industry personnel, Greg concluded: “If anyone is going to successfully bequeath a multi-faceted celebration of culture, cinema and, ultimately, optimism, it’s ASFF, and it’s you, of course, with your hard work and your vision that provides the building blocks upon which this global event can continue to thrive.

“Here’s to ASFF21. The 11th one will be the biggest one. Slainte! Salute! And ba-da-bing.”

More Things To Do in York and at home in what’s left of Lockdown 2020 and beyond. List No. 18, courtesy of The Press, York

We face the second wave…but somewhere on the horizon….

AFTER the tiers of a clown, now comes the even greater frustration of Lockdown 2 from today, knocking the growing revival of arts, culture and life in general back into hibernation.

Nevertheless, in one chink of light, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has decreed that theatre companies can continue rehearsing shows in Covid-secure workspaces, behind closed doors, with a view to lockdown being lifted in early December.

Whether that turns out to be a mere fairytale, only time will tell, so please forgive the unpredictability of what may or may not be happening.

Charles Hutchinson picks through the debris of Lockdown 2 to find signs of artistic life for now and the months ahead.

Films, films and yet more films: Aesthetica Short Film Festival has a feast of film to enjoy while being stuck at home in lockdown

It’s started and it won’t finish until November 30: Aesthetica Short Film Festival online

YORK’S tenth anniversary Aesthetica Short Film Festival opened on Tuesday, switching from a spread of historic and modern locations to a digital and live-streamed festival for home entertainment, enlightenment and education on phones, TV sets, tablets and computers.

Films in competition at ASFF 2020 will span animation, documentary, drama, dance, fashion and thriller. This year they will be released in six strands this week, with no fewer than ten programmes per day under the strand titles of Just Another Day On Earth; Humans And Their Environment; Connections: People, Places and Identity; Breaking Down Barriers; Reclaiming Space: Universal And Personal and Keep On The Sunny Side Of Life.

Masterclasses, guest speakers, panel discussions, guest film programmes and an industry market are further highlights of an online festival unimpeded by the new lockdown. Go to asff.co.uk for tickets and to download the full programme.

Kate Bramley’s latest podcast: “Some strange and wonderful goings on at the allotment”

Fighting off the new lockdown blues: Badapple Theatre’s Theatre On Your Desktop podcast

GREEN Hammerton’s Badapple Theatre Company has added a new Kate Bramley play to its Theatre On Your Desktop series as it extends its lockdown season of free podcasts. 

Click on https://badappletheatreonyourdesktop.podbean.com/ for The World Is Still Next Door, artistic director Bramley’s account of some strange and wonderful goings on at the allotment as Mo and her young son search for a place to fight off the lockdown blues.

Set during four sunny days in May in deep lockdown, Bramley’s play seeks to capture the power of soundscapes to inspire imagination. “I got really interested in the idea of creating a new short piece with many voices of varying ages and accents, as well as delving into sound montages that evoke settings from our local Yorkshire all the way to Watamu Beach in Kenya,” says Kate. “With a bit of Badapple signature magic-realism thrown in for good measure.”

All roads lead to…21 York wards for York magician and entertainer Josh Benson in York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime next month

Travelling Pantomime, not travailing pantomime, as the show must go on…hopefully: York Theatre Royal’s alternative neighbourhood watch

YORK Theatre Royal began rehearsals in the billiards room on Tuesday for associate director Juliet Forster’s Travelling Pantomime production.

It could still be pot luck whether the first collaboration between Evolution Pantomimes and the Theatre Royal will go ahead, everything hanging on Lockdown 2’s fate, but plans are taking rapid shape to cement the itinerary for a tour of 21 York wards from December 3, plus York Theatre Royal performances too.

Just Josh magician and entertainer Josh Benson, Robin Simpson’s Dame Dolly, Anna Soden’s Fairy/Singing Captain, Faye Campbell’s Jack/Dick and Reuben Johnson’s villainous Fleshcreep/Ratticus Flinch will rehearse three pantomimes, Jack And The Beanstalk, Dick Whittington and Snow White, all scripted by Evolution’s Paul Hendy, for each show’s audience to vote for which panto they want to see.  

Bean team: top row, from left, Jordan Fox, May Tether, Ian Stroughair and Livvy Evans; bottom row, Alex Weatherhill, Emily Taylor, Matthew Ives and Danielle Mullan

The other Jack And The Beanstalk in York this Christmas: York Stage at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, December 11 to 30

YORK Stage are going full team ahead with their inaugural pantomime, to be staged in the Covid-secure John Cooper Studio, where Perspex screens will be in place for the first time for the traverse staging.

Writer-director Nik Briggs has added West End choreographer Gary Lloyd to his production team, proclaiming: We’re taking our West End-worthy panto to the next level with the addition of Gary to our company.”

Jordan Fox, May Tether, Livvy Evans, Alex Weatherhill, Ian Stroughair, Danielle Mullan, Emily Taylor and Matthew Ives will be the cast bringing life to Briggs’s debut panto script.

Yorkshire Pudding Song: Martin Barrass will lead the Song Sheet singing at Bev Jones Music Company’s Strictly Xmas In The Park concert

Barrass is back: Bev Jones Music Company in Strictly Xmas In The Park, Rowntree Park, Amphitheatre, York, December 13, 2pm

MARTIN Barrass will be starring in a York pantomime after all this winter. Dame Berwick’s perennial comic stooge may be missing out on the Covid-cancelled Kaler comeback in Dick Turpin Rides Again at the Grand Opera House, but now he will lead the pantomime section of Strictly Xmas Live In The Park.

As part of Bev Jones Music Company’s Covid-secure, socially distanced, open-air performance, Barrass will tell a few jokes and orchestrate the song-sheet rendition of You Can’t Put A Better Bit Of Batter On Your Platter Than A Good Old Yorkshire Pud.

Barrass will wear black and pink to honour the late Bev’s favourite colour combination.

Helen Charlston: Performing at the York Early Music Christmas Festival

Early notice: York Early Music Christmas Festival, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 4 to 13

AS the NCEM website states: “We are planning for these concerts to go ahead and are still selling tickets. If the situation changes, we will of course be in touch.”

Fingers crossed, then, for a socially distanced festival in St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, featuring Palisander, The Marian Consort, Illyria Consort, Joglaresa, The York Waits and Bethany Seymour, Helen Charlston, Frederick Long and Peter Seymour.

Among the highlights, on December 9, festival favourites The York Waits will present The Waits’ Wassail: Music for Advent and Christmas: Carols, songs and dance from across medieval and renaissance England and Europe, played on shawms and sackbuts by York’s Renaissance town band.

Duran Duran: Making their Scarborough Open Air Theatre debut next summer

A hat-trick of new shows on the East Coast: Duran Duran, Lewis Capaldi and Snow Patrol at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

IN quick succession, Duran Duran, Lewis Capaldi and Snow Patrol have been confirmed for Cuffe and Taylor’s ever-expanding programme at Britain’s biggest purpose-built outdoor concert arena.

Booked in for July 7, Birmingham glam pop band Duran Duran will introduce their first new material since 2015, alongside such favourites as Save A Prayer, Rio, Girls On Film and The Reflex.

Lewis Capaldi: “Buzzing” to be back at Scarborough Open Air Theatre in 2021

Glaswegian singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi sold out two nights at Scarborough OAT in 2019 and says he is “buzzing” to be returning on July 25 next summer. “It’s a great venue, the crowds there are always unreal and so here’s to another unforgettable night,” he says.

Snow Patrol’s sold-out 2020 Scarborough show had to be scrapped under Covid restrictions but Gary Lightbody’s band are now booked in for July 3 2021. Tickets for all three shows go on sale tomorrow morning at 9am via scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.

Kate Rusby at Christmas…now online

And what about?

THE Kate Rusby At Christmas tour will not be happening, ruling out her South Yorkshire pub carol concert at York Barbican on December 20.

However, in response to the Covid restrictions, the Barnsley folk nightingale has decided to go online instead, presenting Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Days on December 12 at 7.30pm (GMT). Expect all the usual Rusby Christmas ingredients: sparkly dress, twinkling lights, her regular folk band, her “brass boys”, Ruby the reindeer and a fancy-dress finale.

Tickets go on sale on Friday (6/11/2020) via https://katerusby.com/happy-holly-day/

Only One Question for…Aesthetica Short Film Festival’s American-born director Cherie Federico

As you celebrate the tenth anniversary of ASFF in York, what fills you with pride, Cherie?

“BRINGING a celebration of creativity, film, digital media and culture to the wonderful city of York, where I’ve been for nearly 20 years now.

“We’ve done something that no-one else in the country has done, fusing a cutting-edge festival with a city’s history, creating a bone-fide festival that last year drew over 26,000 people to York, which shows that we’ve got it right.

“The programme is right; the city of York is right, as we create an experience for both visitors to the city and people who live here, while also supporting York’s status as a UNESCO City of Media Arts.

“It’s been a heck of a journey and it took a lot of vision when nothing like this had been done in the city before, then growing it further and further each year. So, here’s to the next ten years.”

Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2020 runs online from November 3 to 30. Go to asff.co.uk to download the full programme.

Aesthetica Short Film Festival goes online for biggest and longest fest for 10th year

“Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2020 will be the most exciting yet,” says director Cherie Federico

TWO of York’s four cinemas, Cineworld and the City Screen Picturehouse, are temporarily closed but the Aesthetica Short Film Festival is responding to Covid-19’s 2020 challenges to the film and events industry with its biggest programme yet.

What’s more, the tenth anniversary edition of this annual autumn highlight of the York culture diary will run all month, from November 3 to 30, rather than the six days first planned before lockdown. No wonder, director Cherie Federico calls it “this beast of a festival” that promises to be “the most exciting yet”.

ASFF 2020 will be held on your phone, TV set, tablet and computer, at home rather than around the city of York, in the necessary concession to taking the festival online for digital and live-streamed events.

“I gave myself an August 1 deadline to decide what festival we should hold, so what I was doing all the time was planning two alternative festivals: a hybrid one, both live and online, or a fully virtual one,” says Cherie.

“So, I’ve been doing double the work. August 1st came and I’m really glad to have made the decision then, as this is now going to be a massive, massive event with more than 100 events taking place online.

“My idea was that it would have to be a bespoke and special experience, something that people would invest time in, which is why we’re extending it to a month, with a month’s pass letting you have a festival in your front room, where you can connect with this amazing independent film content.

“Our festival supports creative industries, brings new to the attention of audiences and continues our ethos of the past nine years, but this year you have to log on online.”

Cherie had no qualms about making the festival digital for 2020. “Most people have a smart TV now, so the concept of watching films at home was already happening,” she says. “Running a festival that can be seen on your TV is almost keeping up with the times, so our festival is transferable, though it’s not replaceable as a live event.”

Films in competition at ASFF 2020 will span animation, documentary, drama, dance, fashion and thriller. This year they will be released in six strands from November 3 to 8, with no fewer than ten programmes per day under the strand titles of Just Another Day On Earth; Humans And Their Environment; Connections: People, Places and Identity; Breaking Down Barriers; Reclaiming Space: Universal And Personal and Keep On The Sunny Side Of Life.

That adds up to 60 films a day, 360 screenings in all, with festival viewers invited to acquire a Festival Pack comprising a festival bag, printed programme, lanyard, the latest edition of Aesthetica magazine and VR [Virtual Reality] cardboards.

“If you’re wondering how you can experience VR films at home, you can order a VR Aesthetica headset for £5.95 online from our website,” says Cherie.

“We’re also probably the only festival that has printed a programme this year, but we felt it was important to mark the tenth anniversary that way.”

Cherie hails another plus point of going digital. “You can pursue your particular interest like being able to watch all the documentaries in the festival if that’s your specialism, so you can create your own festival, but we also want to encourage people to do something they would not normally do, by watching all six strands, each chosen to raise important questions about the world we live in today,” she says.

These cumulative strands of short and feature-length films will be released to virtual passholders from 8am daily and will be available via the festival’s online viewing library until November 30.

ASFF 2020 also will feature 21 guest film programmes, taking in such themes as the climate crisis, new technology, Black Lives Matter and human rights. “Basically, we’re covering every topic that we’re facing as a society, so it’s a really poignant look at the world we live in now,” says Cherie.

Further highlights will be ten showcases for new talent, an online industry market and an industry programme of more than 50 masterclasses, spotlights and panel discussions, giving insights into film productions and exploring filmmakers’ motivations and expertise.

Actress and writer Maxine Peake will give a masterclass, and among the guest speakers will be Oscar-winning director Andrea Arnold; BAFTA-winning filmmaker Sarah Gavron; BIFA-winning and Emmy-nominated documentarian Jeanie Finlay; Oscar- winning sound designer Glenn Freemantle and double Oscar-winning VFX supervisor Paul Franklin (Inception, Interstellar). So too will be animators, cinematographers, editors, production designers and representatives from Film4, BBC Films and Framestore.

One name leaps out from the masterclass programme: York-born Dame Judi Dench discussing her career on screen and stage on November 8 at 4pm. “I’ve been trying to get Dame Judi involved ever since we started the festival, and she said ‘Yes’ this time because of her connection with the city,” says Cherie.

“She’s very happy to lend us her support and expertise to our programme and we’re delighted she is taking part. It was confirmed six weeks ago when normally our programme would have been signed off.”

Looking ahead to next week, Cherie says: “The best thing with ASFF is that you always get a memorable experience, and 2020 will certainly be that with 300 films in competition and 200 other films showing.

“No stone has been left unturned in thinking about what the visitor experience should be like this year and how we can make it special. The digital festival is well designed, navigation online is easy, and we even have an instructional video on how to use this platform.

“Tickets are sold per house, so it becomes very good value for a family of four, and we’re still doing programmes for young children and young adults and still working with schools, where films will be screened this time.”

Tickets are available for 24-hour, seven-day and one-month film and industry passes, as well as a film-only pass for November.  Go to asff.co.uk for tickets and to download the full programme.