Film focus: Short but sweet

As York’s Aesthetica Short Film Festival wins BAFTA-accreditation, Sarah Freeman speaks to founder Cherie Federico.

A scene from A Butterfly on Her Chest, showing at the Aesthetica Short Film Festival this month.
A scene from A Butterfly on Her Chest, showing at the Aesthetica Short Film Festival this month.

One is about a sociopathic Spanish girl who decides to alleviate the boredom of life in small town Florida by becoming a comic book superhero. Another, set in a late 1990s publishing company, exposes the dark side of Cool Britannia. A third stars supermodel Lily Cole and hopes to raise awareness of global warming.

The programme of the annual Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York is nothing if not eclectic and this year there’s more riding on it than ever. Earlier this year, the event became the first film festival in a decade to win Bafta accreditation. It now joins the likes of the Leeds International Film Festival, Sheffield Doc/Fest and BFI London and for those who have their films selected it means they are eligible for a BAFTA award.

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“This is our fourth year and we were overwhelmed with entries from across the world,” says Cherie Federico, who founded the festival after running a short film competition in the pages of the glossy arts magazine Aesthetica. “Short films are the way most directors begin their careers and what we really want to do is not only give them a platform to get their work seen, but also promote the genre to a much wider, mainstream audience.

Filmed and Not Forgotten from the Yorkshire Film Archive will be screened as part of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival on the afternoon of Remembrance Sunday.

“I think there is still a tendency for people to view short films as somehow inferior to full-length features. However, there is nothing amateur about any of the films included in this year’s programme. In fact, there is a real art form in being able to tell a fully-formed story, which is beautifully shot, in less than 15 minutes and that’s what each one of these films does.”

Divided into different strands, from comedy to drama, thriller and animation, the festival takes over the city for four days with screenings in galleries, museums, historic buildings and bars.

“What’s great about the festival is that it sets traditional filmmaking and storytelling against some more left-field offerings,” says Cherie. “So you could spend the morning watching a series of comedy shorts and then the afternoon watching an hour of experimental films.

“We have always been keen to make the festival as accessible as possible and to create a real appetite for short filmmaking within Yorkshire.

“In many other countries, when you go to the cinema, the main film will always be preceded by a short. That tends not to happen in the UK anymore and it’s a real shame as it means that it’s only through festivals like ours that people can get to see the huge amount of talent which is out there.

“It’s one of the reasons why we introduced a family friendly stream. I recognise that taking little ones to 
watch an hour of experimental shorts may push their attention span, but 
this year we have selected 20 films 
which are suitable for those age four 
and over. Our hope is that if you 
can get children switched on to short films, then they will become our audience of the future.”

While the vast majority of the films in the 300-strong programme are from contemporary directors, this year to mark the centenary of the First World War, ASFF will also delve into the Yorkshire Film Archive. Filmed and Not Forgotten is an exhibition of historic films selected from more than 50,000 moving images.

“The archival footage shows Yorkshire residents, workers and servicemen before, during and after the First World War,” says Cherie. “It’s about telling the stories of ordinary people who watched their fathers and brothers go off to a foreign land to fight, it’s about those who went to the frontline and who never came back and it’s about those who were left behind.

“One of the reasons I set up ASFF was to celebrate the best in current filmmaking, but in this centenary year it seemed right that we looked back at how those war years were captured on film. The screening will take place on the afternoon of Remembrance Sunday and together those moments observed and remembered 100 years on will be a poignant reminder of the individuals who gave their lives to fight for this country.”

ASFF Highlights

The Misbehaviour of Polly Paper Cut:

Comedy in which a bored Hispanic comic book fan turns masked sociopath to escape the boredom of her normal life.

• Girl Power: It’s 1997 and into a dizzy world of glamour and false promises comes Cass, a recent graduate. Innocent Publishing appears perfect, but behind Cool Britannia there lurks a much darker place.

Lethe: Surrealist take on memory, identity, and a drug that has the power to erase the past.

• Red Shoes: Based on the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairytale and starring Lily Cole, the film explores decay and decadence with the aim of raising awareness of global warming.

• Vivienta: Video exploring the idea that body language and music can overcome cultural differences.

• Keeping Up With the Joneses: Maxine Peake stars as MP’s wife Celia, who discovers her husband’s true colours when she is taken hostage by his criminal business associates.

• Jim James: State of the Art: A man, who appears to have a television instead of a head, streams the inner desires of those who touch him.

• The Ringer: After a lifetime apart a son finally meets his father. He is determined to find out more about his past, but the revelations are not what he expected.

• A Butterfly on her Breast: After her parents divorce, a young girl visits a tattoo parlour for a permanent reminder of the past.

For more information and tickets visit