ASFF: Saturday

Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) York, UK 6-9 November 2014

Having looked at Animation, Experimental, and Artists’ Film yesterday, we decided to view Documentary, Thriller, and Music alongside the special screening from Lebanon today. 

Lebanese Screening:

Smart, powerful and visceral with a sharp comedic edge, the short films from the Lebanese screening are among the best at this year’s festival. All five shorts were terrific, tackling themes of war, loss, nationhood, gender, and more. The films sang out, distinct yet united in their messages that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Brahim Samaha who introduced the screening spoke of how “war is inside more than outside”, and this perhaps captures more than anything else what these films are aiming to convey. Earthworm Season is an outstanding documentary about suppressed memories and feelings, utterly realistic and utterly moving. Troubled Waters is dark and stylish, horrific at times and always stifling: the past lingers like a tumor biding its time until it consumes you. Yet amid this there are victories, the moment Mona tells her husband – after discovering his secret life – that his son might not be his to thumping techno caused me to physically fist pump the air.  (Ben Sayer)

Brahim Samaha, Cabriolet's Founder, answering questions at the Lebanese screening. Image credit: Lilli Hender.
Brahim Samaha, Cabriolet’s Founder, answering questions at the Lebanese screening. Image credit: Lilli Hender.

Music:

Working on music videos is a brilliant gateway into the film industry – Jonathan Glazer, director of Under the Skin started out in music videos and proved that despite a song’s time limitations, the music video can still push boundaries. Todd MacDonald, director of ‘Deadbeat’, has an air of Ayoyade and Wes Anderson about him, and consequently the music video is charming and cool. The stop motion capture, ‘Hey Now’, dazzles in its Ghibli-esque glory: a music festival vibe is created by the strobe lights but it retains all the magic of the woodland setting and its glowing inhabitants. ‘Slacks’ stands apart however because it is a short film, not simply a music video. Laura Pennell has taken on board St South’s lyrics “I’m not yours, I’m mine” and created a beautiful video to a beautiful song about repossessing oneself; her attention to detail and the song is clear, from the nail polish to the tiny tattoos, Pennell hasn’t missed a trick.

Thriller:

Weird and wonderful, simple as that. This collection of films is deliciously horrible; one might argue some tip further into Horror than Thriller. They feature some great cinematography – Purification and Former Things in particular – and stunning performances – Daniel Niceski’s performance is beyond unsettling in Black and White. From Satanic cults, to sick sex parties, kidnapped sons to a human dolls house, these shorts have plenty to get your chattering teeth in to. (Ben Sayer)

Documentary:

From the Diablo Rojo ‘Red Devil bus’ graveyard in Panama to hair salons in indigenous communities in Australia, the documentaries span the world and a range of issues within it. Lighter subjects like the Red Devil buses, parkour in Morocco, and the paintings of pastor Matti Sirvio make for an entertaining watch, and Half Emirati has an important yet convoluted message about the need for acceptance of mixed race people within Emirati circles, but it is An All-Encompassing Light and Queen of the Desert that stay with you. The horrors of Hiroshima and the need to remember them is poignantly presented in An All-Encompassing Light. We hear the story of an 80 year old survivor, Lee, who tells us that although you can never forget your past you must live for the present and the future – the film is powerfully bookended with Lee walking backwards at the beginning and forwards at the end. When it comes to Queen of the Desert forget Priscilla, Starlady is the true Queen: a youth worker like no other, Starlady brings laughter and brightness into an Anangu community in the form of bleach and fashion shows. Disregarding the boundaries of gender and race and restoring your faith in the power of human kindness, this is a brilliant and joyous documentary.