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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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 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.”