Substance Film Festival: Northern Lights

This week sees the start of Substance, a new festival celebrating the culture, creativity and the future of the north. Taking place in various venues around Hull – the UK City of Culture for 2017 – it’s an engaging and provocative mix of events, including musical performances, debates, installations and film screenings. Particularly exciting is the Substance Film Festival, not least because the selection has been curated by us here at the Aesthetica Short Film Festival.

Running across four nights at the beginning of December, the programme consists of 16 short films, divided into four different sections – all of which take inspiration from the northern landscape, urban or rural, and will look to address that very fundamental question: what does it mean to be Northern in a globalised world? Each night includes a panel Q&A with the filmmakers after the screening, which will undoubtedly make it lively and stimulating series of events.

The first selection is Award-Winning Films on Friday 1 December, which – as the title suggests – features a series of past winners from the ASFF. Titles include Benjamin Cleary’s Stutterer, which won Best Drama at the ASFF (as well as the Oscar for Best Live Action Short). Also on show will be the eerie train-station set Night Mail, which claimed the Best Music Promo in 2014. Director Rob Hackett will be joining the panel for the Q&A.

Place Is A State Of Mind, on Saturday 2 December, deals with shorts that challenge the notion of place. Included is Boris Kuijpers and Ruth Mellaerts’ Allegory Of A Jam Jar, about a businessman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Also on show is A Long Walk To Grimethrope which sees composer Joe Snape journey from Sheffield to Grimethorpe, tuba and sound recorder in hand, as he aims to find inspiration for a new piece of music. Director Ismar Badzic will join the Q&A.

The third session is Human Stories on Monday 4 December, a selection that deals with shared human experience. Amongst the shorts showing is Wave. Narrated by Jarvis Cocker, it’s the story of a man who wakes from a coma to speak a fully-formed but unrecognisable language. Then there’s Hit & Run, by Hannah Pike, who will attend the Q&A to answer questions on this Stockport-set short about the encounter between a suicidal alcoholic and a prostitute.

The final quartet on Tuesday 5 December is dubbed Complex Relationships, a series that looks at the dynamics of family. With all four directors set to appear at the Q&A, the line-up includes Some Will Forget by award-winning documentary director Ruth Grimberg, a potent piece about the closure of one of the last coalmines in the UK and the impact it makes on one miner and his family. Book now and settle back for a wonderfully stimulating evening, whichever night you choose.

James Mottram

Substance Film Festival runs between 1 December and 5 December at the Vue Cinema, Princes Quay, Hull. For more details, visit:

1. Still from Allegory of a Jam Jar. Courtesy of Boris Kuijpers and Ruth Mellaerts.