ASFF 2011: Our Director’s View

There has been a revival of the independent film festival in recent years. With festivals like Branchage, Flatpack, FLIP, Bird’s Eye View and East End, the drive for innovative film programming has never been stronger. The big industry festivals – Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, and Venice – attract entourages, and that’s part of their allure, but the need for a film festival that fosters emerging talent in a bespoke and interesting way is not only gaining momentum, but has come to be expected by audiences. People are searching for a unique experience within the cinema / festival landscape (also reflected in the rise of boutique music festivals), a claim that is certainly supported by the number of indie festivals which have cropped up across the UK throughout the past decade.

The not so Secret Cinema project (only because of its success) is a testament to this trend, not to mention festivals like Abandon Normal Devices in Manchester and Liverpool. In an interview with Aesthetica last year, Fabien Riggall, Director of Secret Cinema and Future Shorts, said: “People want to be inspired. They want to have a unique experience. When they invest, they want to be part of something that will entertain them in a different way.” The programme on offer at these festivals is a testament to the trajectory of the cinematic landscape – perhaps it’s not always about the comfy seat, M&Ms and popcorn. Cinema defines our cultural landscape (whether we like it or not), therefore, by using creative programming and alternative venues, the experience is heightened, and in some way, made more real.

It’s true that the film industry in the UK has taken a blow with the disbanding of the UK Film Council, which is why it has never been a better time to start a new initiative. In times of uncertainty, always expect serendipity. At Aesthetica, we’ve always supported and championed independent talent – it’s at the heart of what we do.

In 2010, we launched the Aesthetica Short Film Competition, which was incredibly well received by the film community with just under 1000 entries; it was an exciting time for new and independent cinema in this office. As a result of this competition, the Aesthetica Shorts DVD was released, with 13 finalists, with the December / January 2011 issue. The winners and finalists also received a prize package with screenings, training courses, and cash prizes (winner and runner-up). The quality of entries was outstanding, and the panel of judges had to make some tough choices (all films were judged on a points system). However, there were a number of films that could have made it onto that DVD but didn’t due to the limitations of a two-hour DVD.

As a result of this, and after a visit to BAFTA as part of the Rushes Soho Shorts Film Festival in July 2010, it became clear that our next step was to launch our own film festival. Fortunately, being based in York – a city with celebrated architecture, quirky spaces and historic buildings (many over 700 years old) – this location provides the perfect venue for an international film festival. Films will be screened in Medieval Halls, city walls, cultural venues, boutique cinemas and, of course, more traditional spaces.

The Festival will take place from 3-6 November in 14 venues throughout the city, with a day of master classes and workshops (Pitching with Channel 4, CGI, and much more), VJs and 150 short films being screened. This festival will not only enhance your cinematic landscape, but also give you the opportunity to explore one of the UK’s best-loved and fascinating cities.

The programme will include narrative-drama, comedy, music video, animation, foreign language films, archived footage, and artists’ films. With films deriving from 37 countries, this is your chance to experience new cinema at its best.

Cherie Federico