5 to See: ASFF 2020

ASFF selects five new films that feature as part of this year’s Aesthetica Short Film Festival. Taking audiences to America, Ireland, South Korea and Norway, these films examine such urgent issues as friendship, death, illness, racism and artificial intelligence.

(dir.) Julian Marshall USA, 2020, 05:40

Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer, murdered George Floyd by driving his knee into George’s neck for 8 minutes and 45 seconds. This film chronicles New York’s overwhelming response. As a voice tells us, this is “a lynching at the highest level”, and the footage of the aftermath – from peaceful protests to riots – viscerally captures the emotions stirred and felt earlier this year. “Get out and vote – our lives depend on it” rings the final message loud and clear.

(dir.) Mitch McGlocklin USA, 2020, 07:25

A life insurance company uses an AI algorithm to determine the risk of a new applicant. The subsequent denial of the application sparks a period of introspection for the individual in question. “I guess the AI thought I was going to die,” he reflects, as he considers his problems with alcohol and a medical history that led the AI to come to its decision. Narrated by McGlocklin, who also muses on data analysis, he illustrates with CG-style graphics – brilliantly in some scenes, such as a sped-up shot of drinkers in a bar.

(dirs.) Ken Are Bongo, Joar Nango Norway, 2020, 03:00

In Duorggat Doarggistit, four small birches (Duorga) are cut by a lake on the tundra. The trees are stifled, and the twigs are taken. The trunks are left behind standing in the landscape. The stark snowy vistas and the virtual silence across the plains, with just the sound of wood being cut, is daunting to watch – making this the sort of film that leaves you in awe of Mother Nature.

(dirs.) Patrick McGivney & Robert Higgins Ireland, 2020, 14:00

Two young men (played by Paul Mescal and Dafhyd Flynn) in rural Ireland find themselves at a crossroads as one’s reckless behaviour pushes their friendship towards breaking point. Feeling like it comes from the same school of observational filmmaking as fellow Irishman Lenny Abrahamson, McGivney and Higgins’ film captures the spontaneity of youth and in Paul Mescal, who sensationally broke out this year in Normal People, they have a genuine star in the making.

(dir.) Ji-Yoon Park South Korea, UK, 2020 11:05

Desperately building against the clock, a restless young woman is awaiting another loss. Soon after the director moves into her 22nd house, she find out that her grandma is in a critical condition. “Her condition gets worse every day”, she’s told. What follows is a close-up, personal look at the family ties that bond us all. “Why are you filming me? I look ugly,” her grandma asks, as the director attempts to reconcile with the thorny issue of mortality.

All films available on ASFF until November 30. Click here for more details.

James Mottram