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Festival Archive .

Discover the story of Aesthetica

The Inception of a Film Festival: 2010

How do you start a film festival? This is a question that our Director is frequently asked, and like many good ideas, it takes time, resilience, determination and drive. Aesthetica was founded in York, UK in 2011. The festival developed from a short film competition that Aesthetica Magazine ran in 2010 to produce a DVD of rising stars to go out with the Christmas 2010 edition of the magazine. There was one problem. There were too many good films and not enough space on that two-hour DVD (little did we know streaming was coming). After attending a BAFTA event and meeting over 40 filmmakers who were rejected, Founder and Director, Cherie Federico, decided the only way forward was to start a film festival and to make it multivenue, joining the heritage of York with the cutting-edge of contemporary cinema.

First Festival: 2011

The first festival ran for three days. Among those delivering masterclasses were Mark Herman (Screenwriter, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas), Ivana Mackinnon (Executive Producer, Slumdog Millionaire), Barry Ryan (Warp Films) and esteemed documentarian Saeed Taji Farouky. The concept of Aesthetica was born, it was a festival of idea generation and knowledge exchange. Through its innovative fusion of remarkable venues and diverse film programme, ASFF has created an event that is truly unique and is pushing the boundaries of the short film landscape both in the UK and abroad.

Year Two: 2012

We built upon the success of the inaugural event with even more exceptional films, venues and speakers. Continuing its drive to champion the art of short filmmaking, the 2012 festival screened 200 films from 25 countries across 15 different locations, all within the scenic Bar Walls of York. Masterclasses were held by key industry figures such as Danny Cohen (BAFTA nominated cinematographer of The King’s Speech, The Boat That Rocked and Glorious 39), Barry Ryan the head of Warp films (Dead Man’s Shoes, Four Lions, This is England and Submarine) and Matt Greenhalgh (BAFTA winning screenwriter of Control and Nowhere Boy). In only its second year, ASFF firmly established itself as one of the most promising new film festivals on the circuit, bringing thousands to the city as well as creating new audiences within its locality.

We Are Three: 2013

Furthering ASFF’s ambition to support new filmmaking talent and provide an exciting cinema experience, the 2013 festival screened 300 films from 36 countries across 15 iconic locations spanning York’s historic and contemporary spaces. The festival presented a number of events, including a dynamic series of masterclasses from Joakim Sundström (Seven Psychopaths) and BAFTA on Sound Editing, Craig McNeil from Beggars Group on Music Video, Warp Films, Film4, Channel 4, Alice Lowe on Screenwriting (Sightseers, Hot Fuzz and Kill List) and more. There were also special programmes from BAFTA, Yorkshire Film Archive, and Screen Bandita, as well as our guest countries: India, Mexico and Kuwait.

Turning Four: 2014

The festival transformed the city of York through pop-up cinema, moving between the city’s most treasured and iconic locations. New strands in fashion and advertising, alongside masterclasses and networking events, presented an opportunity to experience quality independent film and hear directly from industry leaders. There were also a series of masterclasses and workshops with leading industry figures from BAFTA, Channel 4, Sheffield Doc/Fest, Double Negative, Ridley Scott Associates and many more, plus daily networking sessions and evening events. Special screening programmes were presented by Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur, Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival, Creative England’s iShorts and there were official selections from our guest countries: Iraq, Japan and Lebanon. This is the year the festival gained BAFTA-Qualifying status.

It's the First Big Milestone: 2015

The Aesthetica Short Film Festival returned for its sixth year, running 3 – 6 November in 18 distinct venues across York. This year’s festival screened 400 films as part of its Official Selection and presented a number of Showcase Screenings from leading cultural institutions. More than 25 masterclasses with key speakers from the film world today offered essential advice and support for both emerging and established practitioners, including: Simran Hans, Production Designers for Peaky Blinders, Celia Haining (Slumdog Millionaire, Misfits, Nightshift), Lynden Campbell from Domino Publishing (Arctic Monkeys, Hot Chip, Wild Beasts, The Kills; Agent Kate Haldance (PBJ Management) Producer, Gill Isles (Peter Kay’s Car Share, Rovers) and Writer, Caroline Moran (Raised by Wolves), VFX giants Industrial Light & Magic (Star Wars, Marvel), BlinkInk and Maker Projects.

Moving Towards the Future: 2016

The Aesthetica Short Film Festival returned for its sixth year, running 3 – 6 November in 18 distinct venues across York. This year’s festival screened 400 films as part of its Official Selection and presented a number of Showcase Screenings from leading cultural institutions. More than 25 masterclasses with key speakers from the film world today offered essential advice and support for both emerging and established practitioners, including: Simran Hans, Production Designers for Peaky Blinders, Celia Haining (Slumdog Millionaire, Misfits, Nightshift), Lynden Campbell from Domino Publishing (Arctic Monkeys, Hot Chip, Wild Beasts, The Kills; Agent Kate Haldance (PBJ Management) Producer, Gill Isles (Peter Kay’s Car Share, Rovers) and Writer, Caroline Moran (Raised by Wolves), VFX giants Industrial Light & Magic (Star Wars, Marvel), BlinkInk and Maker Projects.

A Destination for New Ideas: 2017

The festival is now running over five days, providing even more opportunities for talent development, networking and inspirational film viewing. Now in its seventh year, it has become one of the key outlets for moving image and digital culture, creating a platform to champion independent film internationally. The programme has expanded, audiences are growing and there are less pop-up spaces as part of the programme but more cinemas and purpose built auditoriums. Speakers included: Andi Osho, RADA, SHOWstudio, Matimba Kabalika, Framestore, ILM, INITION, BBC Film, Channel 4 and more.

A Meeting Place: 2018

The festival is attracting talent that go on to win BAFTAs and Oscars. Audiences are growing and the public programmes are expanding. There’s an energy that runs through the city only felt in cities such as Edinburgh during the Fringe, but we are in York and there are thousands of people who are engaging with independent film, queuing to get a seat. Notable speakers included Mark Cousins, Vogue, leading UK Film Editor Mick Audsley, Dazed, Framestore, Pinewood Studios, Babycow, StudioCanal, Aardman, iD, and BBC. The Screen School VR Lab was launched and we created a serious place for exhibition and dialogue in VR. We also launched our very popular pitching sessions to connect teams with development executives.

Nine Years On: 2019

Every year as a creative team, we challenge ourselves to bring new ideas to the fore. A festival is a place for reinvigoration. Our programming team has expanded, and we are curating programmes that are inviting audiences to dive into new ideas, cultures and places. It’s important to us that there are a vast range of cultures and societies represented through our public programme and curation is at the heart of what we do. Key speakers include Dionne Farell, BBC Film, StudioCanal, Film4, Bird’s Eye View, Nowness, Tracy Granger, Richard Billingham, Dazed, BFI, Hijack, Guardian, Simon Chinn (Lightbox), ILM, Maker Projects, Sky VR, Babycow and many more. The VR Soiree was launched as a large-scale event for professionals working in XR.

Celebrating 10 Years: 2020

This is the year that challenged the world. We had to take a large-scale festival and turn it into a virtual event that still had impact. We built a platform that worked on multi-devices and smart TVs, as well as live streaming 100 events and masterclasses on three channels. The festival was extended to six live days and audiences could catch up on demand for 30 days. This opened up the door to a new way of thinking and the development of film exhibition. Key speakers include Dame Judy Dench, Maxine Peake, Russell Tovey, Sarah Gavron, Andrea Arnold, David Parfitt, Jeremy Deller, Chinonye Chukwu, Framestore, Film4, ILM, Jeanie Finlay and many more.

A New Model for Film Exhibition: 2021

Hybrid has arrived. The festival took place in person over six days and 12 venues in York, while we had live streaming of masterclasses from venues as well as sessions taking place only virtually. It was an extraordinary programme of events and speakers, making sense of the new world that we live in with some things taking place in person and others online. The platform continued for 30 days across all devices. This gave in person attendees a whole new set of possibilities – they could be in front of the big screen, but then catch up for 30 days from home. We were able to reach more people than ever before. Notable speakers include Sally Potter, Asif Kapadia, Harry Macqueen, Mia Bays, Kate Muir, Gamba Cole, Guardian, Film4, Channel 4, The Fabricant, Nowness and many more.