The not-so-short Aesthetica Short Film Festival is back with much more than films

Cherie Federico: Director of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival

AESTHETICA Short Film Festival returns for 300 films in 15 venues over six days in York in its 12th edition from November 1 to 6.

The BAFTA-Qualifying event will have a hybrid format, combining the live festival with a selection of screenings, masterclasses and events on the digital platform until November 30.

New for 2022 will be York Days, a discount scheme with the chance to save 50 per cent on prices on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday programmes. “This is our local push,” says director Cherie Federico. “We believe that film is for everyone, and now you can join in York’s very own film festival.

“Each year, we transform the city into a cinematic playground, showcasing the world’s best film, providing a platform for the very new directors and short films to reach audiences. York is the place where the filmmakers of the future are discovered. As a city, we play a major role in supporting new talent.”

Comedies, dramas, thrillers, animation, family-friendly films and documentaries all feature among the 300 films – from around 4,000 entries – in a festival “where you can engage with global stories”, enjoy film premieres, workshops, the Virtual Reality Lab, installations and the festival Fringe.

“The success of our eight Film Club nights in the York Theatre Royal Studio from April to July gave me the idea to do York Days because it showed there’s an appetite for independent cinema in York,” says Cherie.

“York Days is your opportunity to attend the festival, soak up as many films as you can, and join in our award-winning masterclasses and workshops. This festival is for you and we want you to join in with your friends and family.”

Picking her recommendations for York Days, Cherie suggests seeing films aplenty from the Official Selection; attending a masterclass or workshop; experiencing Virtual Reality in the VR Lab at City Screen Picturehouse, and visiting the StreetLife project hub, in Coney Street, to view the ASFF exhibition, Unite. Create. Transform. For children, she advises attending Family Friendly screenings and signing up for children’s filmmaking workshops.

“We’re running four three-hour children’s workshops on how to direct your own film, divided into two age groups, seven to ten and 11 to 14, with places for 80 children from York to participate, free of charge, as I want to encourage young people to make films,” says Cherie.

Looking ahead to the 2022 festival overall, Cherie says: “I think this year is going to be very, very busy. For example, for our 60 masterclasses and workshops, people are travelling from across the world because they’re world-class, featuring leading representatives from the film industry’s top organisations.”

The 2022 Official Selectiion has been curated into six broader categories: Life As We Know It; The Bigger Picture; We’ll Cross That Bridge When We Come To It; How Do You Do?; Be Yourself, Everyone Else Is Taken and The Present Was Their Idea Of The Future.

“I find with these themes, it’s not about being complex but accessible,” says Cherie. “The power of films is that they’re reflective of daily lives but cinema is transformative because it can introduce you to different cultures, languages, customs, but at the same time it’s about encapsulating human experiences.

“That’s really powerful because it enables you to understand things that you have in common rather than the things that you don’t. This festival celebrates the highs, the lows, the joy, the pain, what it means right now to be on Planet Earth, which is extraordinary because it reminds us of the humanity that binds us together. We take the world’s temperature with this festival.”

Within the six overarching themes are a selection of ten fitting films that span the festival’s 12 genres, complemented by feature-length narratives, documentaries and Virtual Reality experiences.

Alongside, ASFF runs Guest Programmes from around the world, including Queer East’s spotlight on LGBTQ+ cinema from East and Southeast Asia; the Scottish Documentary Institute highlighting East African and Pakistan Stories, and this year’s country in focus, Norway. Look out too for the New Wave strand, showcasing graduate filmmakers.

The masterclasses and panel sessions with industry leaders take in such topics as sustainability and diversity, the ethics of cinema and human rights. Representatives from BBC Film, Sky, Film4, Canon and Ubisoft discuss every stage of film production, the latest film technologies, cinematography, film scoring, scripting, editing and directing.

New too for 2022 is the ASFF Fringe, whose highlights include the aforementioned Unite. Create. Transform group exhibition by ten award-winning contemporary artists, not least Aesthetica Art Prize finalists, at StreetLife, and the ASFF’s £5,000 commission of an immersive sound installation by Jin Chia Ching Ho, Sounds We Have Never Heard Before, presented in partnership with Audible, to be enjoyed on giant pillows at Bedern Hall.

For the Fringe, York Dungeon will be providing walking tours of the city (as well as running one of the festival workshops on make-up for the screen). “A walking tour at a film festival might seem a bit off-piste, but why not!” says Cherie.

To book festival tickets, whether for In-Person, Virtual or Hybrid packages, go to: Tickets for York Days can be booked at or in person from November 1 at City Screen.