Film Programme 2021

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Official Selection Strands

This year’s Official Selection Film Programme is organised through six strands, curated by theme and including multiple genres. Each strand addresses key themes, encouraging wider conversations about the world in which we live.

For detailed listings of all films, times and venues see our 2021 programme.

A festival pass is required for all screenings. Please note, in-person screenings at our Bootham School venue require pre-booking online. 

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How it Was, How it Is, How it Will Be

From Tuesday 2 November
In Person & Online
See programme for details

There are some moments in time that define who we are and what we will do next. There are so many things that connect us as human beings, right here and now on planet Earth. Collective experiences are so precious, and they bind us together. Sometimes, it’s the small things in life that matter the most: learning to ride a bike, your first kiss, first relationship and, similarly, first heartbreak. There is so much beauty in these shared experiences.

Humanity on the Edge

From Wednesday 3 November
In Person & Online
See programme for details

To say it has been a challenging time is an understatement. There are not enough words in the English language to truly articulate everything that is happening around us. From seismic issues like the climate crisis and Covid to human rights and women’s safety. There have been a range of multi-faceted and complex crises, which will not stop of magically disappear. There is no more ‘normal’. It’s an idea that has become redundant.

When Life Gives You Lemons

From Thursday 4 November
In Person & Online
See programme for details

Hope, life, trouble, optimism, positivity, difficulty, motivation. These words define the ups and downs of life. The glass is half full. This programme of films takes a lighter look at life and reminds us of all the joy and beauty that surround us. It reminds us to stop, slow down and look around in order to embrace the here and the now. These films inspire, unite and join as we take a moment to admire the power and resilience of the everyday person.

Pleased to Meet You

From Friday 5 November
In Person & Online
See programme for details

This programme explores interpersonal connections, the contexts with which they are formed and how they ultimately define us. Platonic, romantic, familial: there are numerous types of relationships that we form over a lifetime. But how do we define our associations? At what point does an acquaintance become something more? And how has the digital age altered the ways we make and cut ties, irrevocably?

Mirror, Mirror

From Saturday 6 November
In Person & Online
See programme for details

Identity is a complex, multi-faceted and fluid concept. It makes up who we are as individuals. But how do we decide who we are, or perhaps, who we want to be? Arguably, our memories, experiences and values are more important than where we are from. However, the way we see ourselves is often very different to the way other people see us. This programme considers the intricacies of selfhood in the 21st century.

Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free

From Sunday 7 November
In Person & Online
See programme for details

In 2021, it’s almost inconceivable that segregation, racism, marginalisation and discrimination are still rampant within society, but dangerous rhetoric is still being circulated, with insidious effects rippling outwards across the globe. Though the conversation has begun, there’s a long way to go to establish true equality. We’re all complicit in building a new kind of world based on justice, where individuals are given equal opportunities.

Guest Programmes

New Perspectives. Authentic Stories.New Perspectives. Authentic Stories. These screenings cover a diverse range of topics and styles to broaden the mind and explore different points of view.

For detailed listings of all films, see our 2021 programme.

Celebrating
Difference

Tuesday 2 November
Online Only
Virtual Release

Oska Bright, which has been running since 2004, is the world’s biggest learning disability film festival. Addressing the fact that disabled people make up only 5% of the off-screen workforce in film and television, the festival centres the work of filmmakers with learning disabilities, autism or Asperger’s, showcasing bold, exciting, unique voices that struggle to be heard elsewhere. This year’s programme, curated by lead programmer Matthew Hellett, offers a rich and varied taste of standout films from past editions. An inspiring and energising celebration of difference.

We Are
Who We Are

Tuesday 2 November
In Person & Online
City Screen | 14.00-15.30

The different comprising facets of what we consider identity are as varied as they are personal, and yet we live in a world where the societal desire for neat definitions and convenient catch-all categories are often at odds with the rich expressions of what makes an individual who they truly are. This collection of films from Directors Notes explores the intersection, and often friction, between our authentic selves and the identities expected of us. Since 2006, Directors Notes has scoured the globe for the very best that independent cinema has to offer; this is clear in We Are Who We Are.

Bounce Cinema:
Mother Tongue

Tuesday 2 November
In Person & Digital
Bootham (Pre-Booking Required) | 16.00-17.30

Bounce Cinema is a London-based organisation dedicated to building a better future through film. All year round, it brings thousands of people together to discover cinema with dedicated screening programmes and industry opportunities – encouraging people to get involved. In this programme, they present a selection of shorts celebrating world cinema. Exclusively in the mother tongue of the filmmakers, this collection is dedicated to decolonising film. Discover bold stories from around the globe that explore identity, humanity and the pressures of the world we live in.

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Road to Nowhere:
DIY Creativity and Crisis 

Wednesday 3 November
Online Only
Virtual Release

Artist and musician Ian Bruce is best known as the lead singer of world-touring, festival-conquering multi-genre dance duo The Correspondents. However, he is also an award-winning painter and filmmaker, who specialises in playful animations and tenderly realised painted portraits. Here Bruce shares a programme of his short films and music videos, many of which are DIY productions made on micro-budgets which showcase the breadth of his work and demonstrate the potential of creativity to sustain us through times of crisis. Learn more about the world of DIY filmmaking.

Jakarta Stories:
New Creative Voices

Wednesday 3 November
Online Only
Virtual Release

Indonesian filmmakers respond to themes of disability and diversity in a series of compelling shorts produced through a collaboration between the Scottish Documentary Institute and In-Docs. Thanks to In-Docs’ deep engagement with diverse communities across the country, SDI were able to connect twelve filmmakers living across the country, facilitating creative collaboration despite geographical distance. The resulting films are moving, insightful and tender, and a showcase for a cohort of emerging filmmakers who hope to become the new creative voices of Indonesia.

Foresight
An Urgent Anthology

Wednesday 3 November
In Person & Online
City Screen | 14.00-15.30

Foresight is a compilation of short films set in the UK that imagine the future for Black and Brown characters. Written, directed, and produced by culturally diverse filmmakers who call the UK home. Foresight is an urgent anthology that explores alternate realities through the lens of five Black British Directors. This time capsule collection contributes to a perspective and point of view continually missing from our screens… a future where people of colour exist! We Are Parable, Film4 and Fruit Tree present this Guest Programme at Aesthetica Film Festival.

Focus on
Northern Ireland

Wednesday 3 November
In Person & Online
National Centre for Early Music | 16.00-17.30

Northern Ireland has a long tradition of non-fiction work, in part due to its unique colonial history.  However, it seems more and more that filmmakers based here have begun to step out of their comfort zone to look elsewhere for more contemporary subjects such as austerity, Eden itself, or the wonder that is Oona Doherty.  In these chosen films, some of Docs Ireland’s favourites from the previous few years, we also still see classic explorations of identity, the border, and state systems. These films explore such notions, all told with a distinct and interesting visual style.

Everymen
A Celebration of Trans Masculinity

Thursday 4 November
Online Only
Virtual Release

As LGBTQ+ stories become increasingly visible in mainstream cinema, a new wave of trans directors and writers are seizing the opportunity to make their own films. The Transgender Film Center is a filmmaker-led organisation which helps trans creators to bring their work to audiences around the world. Despite the recent boom in queer storytelling, transmasculine experiences remain under-documented in film as a whole. In response, TFC founder Sav Rodgers brings us a programme focusing on trans masculine narratives. Steering away from cliches, these films are vital portraits.

How The Past Is Presented:
Geopolitics In Iraq & The Gulf

Thursday 4 November
In Person & Online
Bootham (Pre-Booking Required) | 14.00-15.30

Mesopotamia — a land framed by the Euphrates and Tigris in modern-day Iraq — was a less well-known theatre of operations during WWI, fought between British and Indian troops against Ottoman Turks. Their geopolitical repercussions are still felt today. Film of the conflict is scarce, but what remains is powerful, evocative and important. In this illustrated talk, the Imperial War Museum presents a fascinating archive. Part-travelogue, archaeological study and ethnographic exploration, this footage invites us to interrogate British attitudes and how the past is represented.

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Africa in Motion:
Focus on North Africa

Thursday 4 November
Online Only
Virtual Release

Now in its fifteenth year, Africa in Motion (AiM) is an annual film festival based in Glasgow that brings the best of African Cinema to new audiences in Scotland and beyond. In this programme, AiM director Liz Chege presents a selection of standout films from previous editions that between them offer contrasting but compelling visions of North Africa. These three filmmakers from AiM, part of a wave of exciting new voices emerging from the region, use surreal imagery, absurd humour and dream logic to explore overlapping themes of solidarity, hope, fear and resistance. 

Beijing Stories:
Resilience and Artistry

Thursday 4 November
In Person & Online
Friargate | 15.30-17.00

Beijing Stories is a demonstration of resilience and artistry in the face of challenging times. These films are the result of a series of Scottish Documentary Institute workshops with emerging filmmakers in China. The 15 filmmakers selected to take part were based in Beijing, but at the time of the filming were scattered in different parts of the country due to travel restrictions. Despite these difficulties, they captured a series of fascinating portraits of the city, responding creatively to adversity and drawing out unexpected stories of people finding their place in the metropolis. In collaboration with Post Wave.

Raised Voices:
We Are Parable

Thursday 4 November
In Person & Online
York Theatre Royal | 18.00-19.30

We Are Parable are renowned for bringing Black British film to new audiences through innovative events and partnerships. This programme features eight powerful shorts which each speak to the wider lived experience of being a Black or Brown person in the UK. From nepotism to immigration, discrimination to protest, the artists who produced these wonderful stories are voices that not only deserve to be heard, but to be raised. We are excited to welcome We Are Parable for a duo of Guest Programmes at this year’s Aesthetica Short Film Festival, in-person and online.

Journeys
Into Film

Friday 5 November
Online Only
Virtual Release

After the political upheavals of the last few years, followed by the forced closing of borders during the pandemic, many of us have been reflecting on our rights of movement. This programme is presented in partnership with Journeys Festival International, an organisation who curate and commission work made by artists exploring the refugee experience. Often, refugee stories are framed by filmmakers who are detached from the subject matter, but this programme offers a different perspective, featuring only filmmakers who have lived experiences of forced migration.

Visions from
Modern Britain

Friday 5 November
In Person & Online
York Theatre Royal | 12.00-13.30

Centering voices and tackling topics of youth homelessness, anxiety disorders, gender nonconformity and anti-Blackness within British society, this collection of short documentaries offers a snapshot of modern Britain and issues facing today’s young generation.  Told by the UK’s most talented new and emerging documentary filmmakers these stories have been funded and curated by the BFI Doc Society Fund. The Fund is the BFI’s delegate partner for UK documentary shorts and feature film funding. The Made of Truth Fund supports bold non-fiction shorts.

 

9/11, Twenty Years On Part 1:
Memories, Monuments

Friday 5 November
In Person & Online
Bootham (Requires Pre-Booking) | 14.00-15.30

Aesthetica marks twenty years since the attack on the Twin Towers, with a three-part programme examining its impact and aftermath. These four films capture real attempts to remember traumatic experiences. A bereaved father finds purpose working as a museum guide, a filmmaker charts the personal consequences of war via a fallen statue, a public memorial exposes uncomfortable truths about the process of remembering and an artist pieces together her family history from fragments . Each film serves, in its own right, as a kind of memorial to lives destroyed and displaced.

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Roots, Seeds,
Flowers, Fruit

Friday 5 November
Online & In Person
York Theatre Royal | 16.00-17.30

T A P E specialise in curating programmes which centre the voices of BIPOC and female filmmakers. In this programme, the London-based collective present a series of shorts made by women of Muslim faith or heritage, which shatter stereotypes within and outside of the community. Motifs of ceremony, ritual and domesticity recur, blurring the boundaries between cultural, religious and political spheres. Fragmented, dreamlike narratives mimic the ebb and flow of collective memory, touching upon Islamic history to offer a portrait of contemporary Muslim womanhood.

New Generation
South African Filmmakers

Saturday 6 November
Online Only
Virtual Release

Girls in Film is a global network that represents, champions and connects women, non-binary and trans creatives in the film industry. New chapter Girls in Film South Africa announce their arrival in attention-grabbing style with this dazzling selection of narrative shorts, webisodes and fashion films. A fresh wave of talent are making their presence felt, blending the ever shifting memes of global youth culture with hyper local reference points and narratives. The result is a distinctive fusion of tradition and innovation, as a new generation find their voices.

Untold Stories:
Intersectional Realities

Saturday 6 November
In Person & Digital
City Screen | 13.00-15.00

Every one of us is built of many pieces – we are all jigsaws of our heritage, upbringing and experience. Yet too often British film has ignored this, failing to represent our intersectional realities onscreen. This programme and Q&A, presented in partnership with Sheffield Hallam, explores how diversity can be embedded in filmmaking practice, from production to exhibition. Taking as a specific focus emerging filmmakers based in the North of England, Untold Stories showcases directors and producers who capture the region from new angles. The result makes space for unheard voices.

9/11, Twenty Years On Part 2:
In Search Of

Saturday 6 November
In Person & Online
Bootham (Requires Pre-Booking) | 15.30-17.30

The declaration of a “War on Terror”, and subsequent invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, has been the most obvious, controversial and globally devastating consequence of 9/11. Over the past two decades, millions around the world have had their lives changed forever through death, injury and displacement as a result of this campaign. These films attempt to challenge dominant media narratives by addressing these events from unexpected angles. Afghan and Iraqi filmmakers draw out the untold human stories behind the headlines. Dignity and fortitude shines through.

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Queer Joy:
The LGBTQ+ Experience

Saturday 6 November
In Person & Online
York St John | 18.00-19.00

Although onscreen portrayals of LGBTQ+ lives are becoming more varied and sophisticated all the time, the majority of media still centres trauma when depicting queer characters. While everyone will experience struggle in their lives, and we are still a long way from a truly equal society, the LGBTQ+ experience can also be a profoundly joyful one. The Iris Prize are proud to present a selection of films which brim with energy, exuberance and laughter.  Romantic, sexy, silly and often very funny, these short films challenge assumptions and are guaranteed to bring some joy to your life.

Aesthetica Stars of the Future:
Part One

Saturday 6 November
In Person & Online
York St John | 13.30-15.00

Since the first ASFF in 2011, we have had the privilege of screening hundreds of shorts from around the world. This two part programme celebrates some of our favourite festival filmmakers from the past 10 years. These Aesthetica alumni screened with us early on in their filmmaking journey and are now working at the forefront of the medium in the UK and beyond, demonstrating their talent across features, documentary, television and visual art. Here, we invite the directors to revisit the films that helped launch these stars of the future.

9/11, Twenty Years On Part 3:
The Fallout

Sunday 7 November
In Person & Online
Bootham (Requires Pre-Booking) | 14.00-15.30

The attack on the Twin Towers and its aftermath has had an unprecedented and unpredictable impact on many aspects of our lives. Society, politics and the media have been irrevocably shaped by the expansive geo-political consequences. We still feel aftershocks on a daily basis. In this provocative programme, artist filmmakers grapple with resurgent islamophobia, new forms of warfare, the emergence of ISIS, creeping surveillance, neo-conservatism and the rise of the alt-right. All are explored in an appropriately sprawling and discursive selection.

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Aesthetica Stars of the Future:
Part Two

Sunday 7 November
In Person & Online
York St John | 20.00-21.00

Since the first ASFF in 2011, we have had the privilege of screening hundreds of shorts from around the world. This two part programme celebrates some of our favourite festival filmmakers from the past 10 years. These Aesthetica alumni screened with us early on in their filmmaking journey and are now working at the forefront of the medium in the UK and beyond, demonstrating their talent across features, documentary, television and visual art. Here, we invite the directors to revisit the films that helped launch these stars of the future.

Family Friendly Screenings

Film is for everyone. Although designed for youngsters, these projects touch upon a breadth of emotions and offer layers of meaning for adults and carers alike, featuring animations, comedies and age-appropriate dramas. Create lasting memories with your loved ones and immerse the whole family. Sign up, log on and connect to a hub of brilliant stories. Suitable for children aged 4-12 years old.

For detailed listings of all films, see our 2021 programme.

Life Lessons

Family Friendly
Programme Two | In Person & Online
See programme for details

Once again we traverse the globe to discover new experiences and maybe along the way, learn a thing or two about ourselves and others. In these small wonders, young people begin to find themselves and their way in the world, however fantastical, funny, sad, or difficult the journey. In I am a Pebble, stones become otters, whilst in Birds of Passage there is flight of another kind. We endure growing pains in Death & Deathability, make discoveries of a lunar nature in The Moon and Me, and finally, embark on a journey with an imaginary friend.

Just the Two of Us

Family Friendly
Programme One | In Person & Online
See programme for details

Our first selection of family friendly shorts from around the world, explore the connections between two people: bonds of family, friendship or care, which are sometimes strong, sometimes tested. But it’s through these connections we can find common ground, support and our humanity. In Soft Creatures, we witness a surprising visitation in a school yard, then discover the links between past and present in Two Sands. In Dalia, a difficult decision needs to be taken on an Icelandic farm, and lastly we uncover the mystery of sleepwalking in Little Bear.