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The Story of Aesthetica Film Festival: Part 2

Our journey continues with bigger and bolder ideas to celebrate screen-based storytelling. We strive to create the best festival experience with opportunities like our pitching sessions and Games Lab. What will the future hold?

2018: A Meeting Place

As audiences were growing, the festival also began to attract BAFTA and Oscar-winning talent. Notable speakers included representatives from Dazed, Framestore, StudioCanal, Aardman, iD, and BBC. We launched our Screen School VR Lab, establishing a space for new technology within the festival ecosystem. We also began our very popular pitching sessions to connect teams with development executives.

2019: Nine Years On

We challenge ourselves to bring new ideas to the fore with each new edition of the festival. Our programming team expanded as we committed ourselves to curation that invited audiences into new ideas, cultures and places. Key speakers came from organisations like BBC Film, StudioCanal, Film4, Bird’s Eye View, Nowness, BFI, Guardian, ILM, and more. The VR Soiree was launched as a large-scale event for XR professionals.

2020: Our 10 Year Anniversary

This is the year that challenged the world. We turned a large-scale festival into a virtual event that could be experienced on our designated online platform. The festival was extended to six live days and audiences could catch up on demand. Key speakers included Dame Judy Dench, Maxine Peake, Russell Tovey, Sarah Gavron, Andrea Arnold, David Parfitt, Chinonye Chukwu, Framestore, Film4, ILM and many more.

2021: A New Model

The festival took place in person over six days and 12 venues in York, with online talks and virtual sessions. It was an extraordinary programme of lively events and expert speakers. Despite the challenges faced, we were able to reach more people than ever before. Notable speakers included the likes of Sally Potter, Asif Kapadia, Mia Bays, Kate Muir, Gamba Cole, Guardian, Film4, Channel 4, The Fabricant, Nowness and many more.

2022: 12 Years of the Festival

The festival continued with hybrid delivery and audiences returned in droves. There’s one thing that rings true – film is a communal experience and it was great to bring people together again. Our VR Lab, pitching and networking sessions had record numbers of attendees. Key speakers included Carly Brown, Philip Barantin, Saeed Taji Farouky, Sashi Kissoon and representatives from BBC Film, Film4, Guardian and more.

2023: Exploring New Possibilities

We launched our first Games Lab, filled with 40 gripping titles from talented independent developers. These are now celebrated in our programming alongside our established Film and VR programmes. Representatives came from across the creative industries, including: BBC Film, Film4, Ridley Scott Associates, Ubisoft and many more. Our remarkable list of speakers included Sarah Gavron, Michel Haddi and Mark Jenkin.

Relive the Festival Experience over on Our Short Film Library.


  1. Black Sheep, dir. Ed Perkins
  2. Kofi & Lartey, dir. Sacha Rainbow
  3. The Fantastic, dir. Maija Blåfield
  4. Hanging On, dir. Alfie Barker
  5. Until the Tide Creeps in, dir. Jessi Gutch
  6. The Golden West, dir. Tom Berkeley & Ross White