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The Yorker at ASFF ’17: Family Friendly 1

This year’s Aesthetica Short Film Festival was the biggest one yet; 18 venues across York screening 300 cutting-edge short films over five days, the longest the festival has run to date. This BAFTA-qualifying festival brings people to York from all over the world, filling the streets with yellow-lanyard-wearing attendees of all ages. It’s especially exciting to attend one of the Family Friendly screenings, as I did, and see children getting enthused about the short film format. 

I attended the first of three Family Friendly short film collection screenings at York Theatre Royal on Sunday morning. In the small performance space, sat on just a few rows of seating, many families (and some adults on their own!) settled down for 45 minutes of brand new animated family entertainment.

The first film was Corky, a tale set on a kitchen worktop one night. A lonely corkscrew who lives in a drawer discovers a glass bottle inhabited by fireflies and can’t resist their glow. With an exaggerated style of animation, it particularly appealed to the younger people in the room, and had a heart-warming message of friendship and acceptance at it heart.

The next was a Danish film called Dark, Dark Woods about a young princess driven beyond boredom by her duties and etiquette training, until she finds the woods and the creatures within. With an appealing 2-D animation style and excellent non-verbal storytelling, this film was great fun to watch and showed the excitement of exploring the world as a child with endless imagination.

Wishing Box also made excellent use of non-verbal storytelling by centring the action around a pirate and his monkey. They bag a treasure chest which appears empty to Pirate Derek, but when his monkey roots around he pulls out his deepest wish – a banana. The comedy comes from Derek and the monkey wanting very different things; Derek is a greedy man who only wants gold, but the monkey’s innocence turns any illustration of gold items into food. Charming and funny, this film got the whole room laughing.

Next, from the National Film and Television School came Perched, a story about an old man living in a submarine balanced on top of a rocky peak. By manoeuvring weights with pulley systems, Hamish Flint gets by just fine, thank you – until a seagull drops by and throws everything off. A beautiful depiction of loneliness, companionship and goodwill, Perched is a fine example of a great student film.

At 21 minutes and 24 seconds, The Wishing Jar was the longest film in this collection. Made in Canada, it takes much inspiration from Japanese anime films in style. We follow a girl as she chases after a fallen star through an imaginative world of flying fish, but stormclouds are on their way as she pursues her quest accompanied by her teddy-bear sidekick. Tackling grief through a child’s perspective, this film has time to get into the dark emotions that come with it and had moments which were quite scary (one of the children in the audience said so during its screening). Ultimately, it shows the scarier side of the world in a way that children can understand and experience in a safe environment, and teaches them that although we may lose people, there will be reasons to keep going.

Rounding off the screening was the short but sweet Tall Tales Part 3, a mythos of witches narrated by a father to his child. According to him, witches start very small and grow as they gain power. Accompanied by fun animation of these creatures, with perfect comic timing to match the narration, this gave a lovely lift to the room before we headed back out into the real world.

Overall, this screening was an excellent example of the variety of family-friendly short films being made today, and it was reassuring to see themes of acceptance and friendship running throughout so many of them. Families in York are lucky to have such an exciting festival on their doorstep which caters for them along with all the visitors to the city.

These films were screened as part of Aesthetica Short Film Festival. Image Source: ThingsToDoInYork.com