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As the weekend begins, Aesthetica is busier than ever. If you're walking around York this weekend, you will most certainly see one their banners outside an official festival venue. However, some venues can't cope with the number of visitors that show up for each screening, which is the case of 1331. This little gem lies in the heart of York and has a bar, restaurant and small cinema room in its top floor which accommodates approximately thirty people. While the place is cosy and welcoming, the cues outside can get out of hand, leaving many people underwhelmed as they were unfortunately turned down from entering. However, this doesn't spoil the upbeat atmosphere of the festival as a whole. If you miss a screening, be sure to head to York Explore Library, where you can watch every single short film on demand.
Watching short films on the big screen in a cinema can be quite a delightful experience, as was the case with Comedy 1: Curious Encounters. The theme of curious encounters that ties these films together is extremely appropriate and those alone make a case for strong comedic appeal. The films spanned from a terrible bank thief having an Uber as his getaway car, to a man who went to the dentist but instead of having his teeth fixed, got a hand job. The short film Pater Familias by Giacomo Boeri is worth a mention for its excruciatingly painful comedy, the type where the audience doesn't know if it's even politically correct to laugh at such mishap. The protagonist is in this film is a 50-year-old man who finds his son's phone and exchanges messages with a potential date on a social network. Daphne Do's Wibble Wobble will also provide you with many laugh-out-loud scenes, but with a very different approach. The characters in this case face an out-of-this-world amount of awkwardness, which just continuously escalates as the film progresses, making you fall more and more in love with the protagonist, even if he's a little socially awkward. In fact, it's precisely his quirky personality that makes him so appealing.
Despite how delightful all this may be, you might have noticed by now that going to screening after screening at Aesthetica can get tiring. The best way to avoid being that one person that dozes off in the cinema is to attend one of the 'Thriller' screenings, keeping your eyes open and glued to the screen. Thriller 1: Uncertain Times includes two intriguing takes on the 'AI-gone-wrong' sub-genre. CC is a deeply unsettling vision of the robot child-minders of the future, laced with a moving undercurrent of parent-child connection. Even more fascinating is Alex Shin's Eve. At first, it feels like a generic story of scary future technology, but where Shin's film moves beyond that is in introducing a thrilling time travel element. The film also benefits from its tight personal focus, rather than trying to be too broad and ambitious in its short running time.
Elsewhere in the Thriller 1 screening are the slightly disappointing Be Uncertain and Ovum. Whilst the latter is perfectly well made, it doesn't really offer anything new and is perhaps too predictable to be a great thriller. Be Uncertain is a case of squandered potential. With an interesting clone-based premise and strong cast, the film's attempt at secrecy and ambiguity ends up leaving the whole thing rather flat. Of all the shorts, it is the one that feels the least suited to its format, never having the space to grow into the complex thriller you hope for. The final film in the Thriller 1 slot is a resounding success, however. Wale is an intense, passionately told tale of injustice, both criminal and social. Wale is a young man trying to earn an honest living as a mechanic after serving time in a Young Offenders institution, but his plans are derailed by the utterly terrifying O'Brian. Without giving too much away, Wale is an excellent evocation of anger. Watching it you will feel saddened, outraged and, throughout its runtime, utterly gripped.
All the films reviewed above will be screened again throughout the festival, refer to timetables.
For more information, visit the ASFF website.