The ASFF, hosted by Aesthetica Magazine, is very much a celebration of independent film and takes place throughout some of the coolest venues in York. I went down for a day to experience some truly magnificent productions from an array of interesting categories.
On arrival the staff were helpful and provided me with the excellently crafted and accessible program, this set the tone for the rest of the day which had clearly been organised meticulously. My first stop was King’s Manor for a selection of Artists’ films, the venue itself allowed me to get comfy and engrossed in the short films despite its small size. The most notable production I watched was The Column. Unsurprisingly, hearing that this 27 minute film followed the journey of a concrete block didn’t excite me, however this was an extremely cathartic experience filmed beautifully. Adrian Paci even managed to make cranes appear stunning within this excellent film.
Next, I made the short distance to screen two within King’s Manor to watch the advertising segment. As screen two was a larger space, there was a more cinematic feel to the productions, especially because they were adverts. However, these adverts were far from the tedium we’re used to, in particular Man on the Move. This entailed a reasonably dressed man bumping into several objects as a means of changing his clothes, coupled with the comical music it became a very dynamic advert. Another advert worthy of mention was the heart-warming Together Apart which had a similar resonance to a John Lewis advert. It explored the theme of the growingly relevant long distance relationship through video calls.
As a York newcomer, several parts of the city are completely alien to me. ASFF certainly helped me and I’m sure long term residents of York discover some of the more hidden venues of the city. The prime example being According to McGee, an art gallery seconds away from Clifford’s Tower which had doubled up as an intimate viewing space for the day. According to McGee was showcasing some excellent music videos and although I had to stand up, I couldn’t help but admire the talent on show. In The Pines (St. Lo) was the pick of this screening, as the sensual stop motion coincided with the rhythmic and enchanting nature of the song. In search for more musical excellence I attended the second screening later in the day back at King’s Manor. This included the phenomenal Midnight Shallows (Mt. Wolf) which was perhaps the best viewing of the festival, but certainly the best music video. It consisted of mostly black and white images, the most prominent being the inclusion of an owl, which varied in pace depending on the stage of the song. Watch it now. Another noteworthy video came from Punks Jump Up with Fairlight, which consisted of millions of geometric shapes as a means of achieving the clear ‘80s theme, definitely a video to be appreciated for its aesthetics as opposed to the actual music.
In between my music sessions I had to make the seemingly long trek to Reel Cinema, only a ten minute walk, but given the centralised nature of the festival it was a bit out the way. However, it was definitely worth the walk as the comedy section was the highlight of the day. Even though Reel Cinema isn’t the nicest venue in the world, there is a certain charm to the relatively small rooms and it was nicely familiar watching films in an actual cinema. The Boy with a Camera for a Face was the best production, as despite the comical name there were sinister undertones throughout which invited the audience to think about how we are consumed by television. The funniest performance came from Nick Green’s The Funeral, as the well-timed dark humour proved to win over the audience. Robot Luv rounded off the comedy perfectly, with a short and endearing romance between a robot and a laptop.
I concluded the day with documentaries and one production in particular stood out, this was Queen of the Desert. It followed the journey of ‘Starlady’, who has a somewhat obscure aim to train young indigenous people in the art of hairdressing. The confidence with which Starlady performs this task was inspirational and really livened up the lives of the children, both a heart-warming and fascinating documentary.
Ultimately the goal of the ASFF is to celebrate independent films and they definitely achieved this. Even with the tremendous quality of short films on show, there was still a lot of work to be done to broadcast the pieces so effectively. I cannot recommend attending next year’s festival highly enough, but until then you can view some of this year’s entries as a means of experiencing film in a whole new way.
Picture: Screenshot from Jim James: State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U). 2013. Directed by Staci DeGagne & Alexander Fletcher (Clean White Lines Productions). USA. Music Video Finalist in ASFF 2014.