The winners of the 11th Aesthetica Short Film Festival were announced on Sunday 7 November, with a jury of leading industry experts – including from the BBC, Scottish Documentary Institute, Blue Zoo and British Vogue – handing out the awards to some remarkable and thoroughly deserving new voices in cinema.
Four titles took multiple prizes. British filmmaker Alfie Barker’s Hanging On, a stirring docu-drama about neighbourhood and community, was awarded Best of Festival, as well as Best Documentary. Community was a theme also central in Bank Job by Daniel Edelstyn and Hilary Powell. This winner of Best Documentary Feature explored movements ready to take aim at archaic predatory economic systems.
Wang Yuyan’s mesmerising experimental short One Thousand And One Attempts To Be An Ocean, a reflection of the experience of being unable to see the world with the luxury of depth perception, was awarded both Best Editing for its sensational college of aquatic images and the prestigious Hijack Visionary Filmmaker Award. Meanwhile, Maria Martinez Bayona’s Such Small Hands, a disquieting tale set in a girls’ orphanage based on the novella by Andrés Barba, took home Best Thriller and Best Cinematography for the chilling, atmospheric work of Director of Photography Krzysztof Trojnar.
Taiwanese director Ta Pu Chen came to the Official Selection with the full-length drama The Cleaner, a beguiling story of group who make their livings by hosing down death scenes – but also helping the families and friends of the deceased overcome riffs and arguments. A unique familial drama that addressed life’s biggest issues, it won Best Screenplay and Best Narrative Feature.
The liberating nature of physical expression featured strongly in Joshua Ben-Tovim and Roseanna Anderson’s BLAST, which won Best Dance. Leah Vlemmikis’s Tesafy was awarded Best Music Video, and also used dance, narrative and documentary to tell the story of Witch Prophet’s late grandfather, who raised five daughters as a single father in Ethiopia.
Two other winners explored the trials and tribulations of blue-collar work. Winner of Best Drama, See You Garbage!, by Romain Dumont, followed three garbage collectors as they receive a surprising dinner invitation. Similarly, Frédéric Schuld’s The Chimney Swift, which claimed Best Animation, sees young 19th Century chimney sweeps describe their everyday routines.
Issues of discrimination come to the fore in Michelle Williams Gamaker’s The Bang Straws, winner of Best Experimental, as it touched on the politics of studio films in the 20th Century. Awarded Best 360 Film, Joséphine Derobe’s Meet Mortaza follows an asylum seeker as he flees Afghanistan because he was sentenced to death by the religious authorities, a narrative that feels utterly relevant in light of recent events in the country. Elisha Smith-Leverock’s Rejoice Resist took the Best Fashion prize for its celebration of Black pleasure as the ultimate form of resistance.
The Aesthetica Short Film Festival also celebrate off-kilter worlds. Fiona Jane Burgess’ commercial North Face X Gucci presented by Highsnobiety won Best Advertising, turning the lens on a new generation of birdwatching enthusiasts. Furthermore, Aleksander Johan Andreassen’s Centarium – winner of the Best Artists’ Film – watched mannequins come to life. David Dearlove’s black-and-white Taj Mahal presents…A Short Film claimed Best Comedy. Starring esteemed actor Phil Davis, it was a masterly four-minute swipe at the very genre of short films.