Movie-goers feel the force ahead of film festival frenzy

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This week and next look like being a film lover’s dream, as two major festivals launch in Yorkshire. Neil Hudson reports on the silver screen rush

Tomorrow sees the launch of two major film festivals in Yorkshire. In York, there is the BAFTA Qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival, a four day event with 300 short films being shown across 15 venues, while in Leeds, there is the 29th Leeds International Film Festival, which is attempting to pull off a show-stopping performance of its own.

Director of the Leeds festival Chris Fell, who has been involved with the event since 1999, said this year was their biggest and best. They will screen an exclusive preview of Brooklyn, an epic romance set in 1950s America, penned by Nick Hornby. They have even managed to convince Pixar to allow them to screen the short Sanjay’s Super Team, an animated short which will be screened before their latest epic The Good Dinosaur, released on November 27.

Chris said: “We were pleased to be able to screen that. We will also be screening the latest Star Wars trailer.”

If you think that might sound a bit so-so, then you must consider the venue, because both will be screened at Leeds Town Hall, which will be transformed into a digital movie-goers dream with the latest picture and sound equipment.

Chris explained: “The experience of watching a film in that setting is completely different - the sound is just amazing, it’s orchestral.”

There are 19 venues in the Leeds line-up, among them places you wouldn’t otherwise consider as film venues, like Mill Hill Chapel off City Square, which will be showing three day’s worth of short films.

The festival will also feature the world’s smallest cinema - a converted London black cab, dubbed the ‘Tipple Taxi’ because movie-goers will be able to take drinks into the tiny three-seater venue at Trinity Shopping Centre.

Chris, who used to work at the National Media Museum in Bradford, added: “This festival is all about getting those people who are used to going to the cinema and showing them some alternative films, to show audiences what they’re missing. We make it really accessible, which is why we are using all these different venues.”

Last year, some 40,000 people attended the event, with some even booking two weeks off work and paying the £95 for unlimited access to see 45 films. Organisers are already thinking about how to mark their 30th year.

In York, the BAFTA Qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival attracted 18,000 people last year but has already won national recognition. The festival was started five years by Cherie Federico, editor of Aesthetica magazine after she ran a competition to include a DVD of short films with their Christmas edition.

“We were overwhelmed,” explained Cherie. “We had a two-hour DVD and about 200 films, we couldn’t fit them all on.”

Shortly thereafter, she was invited to speak at BAFTA, where she found herself confronted by some of the filmmakers she had been forced to reject. It was that meeting with proved the genesis of the festival, which last year won coveted BAFTA approval.

She said: “On the train ride back from London to York I knew I had to do it differently or not at all and in that two hours, the entire festival was born.”

While the Leeds festival includes premiers and longer films, York’s focuses entirely on shorts, attracting contributions from the US, German, the Netherlands and beyond.

Cherie added: “There’s a film out there for everyone, including children from the age of four.

“For me, it’s about knitting together the historic venues in York with contemporary film, it’s about getting people to go see something they otherwise wouldn’t and putting them out of their comfort zone and leaving that experience feeling inspired.”

The Leeds festival runs from November 5-19, the ASFF from November 5-8.