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Aesthetica 2019: ‘Drama’ Shorts roundup

Photo from Visit York

Both Jordan Sellars and Charlie McCarthy attended Aesthetica over the 6th to the 10th of November, both reviewing several films each from the Drama and Comedy Shorts sections.

‘DRAMA Shorts’

‘VIEWS’ [Dir. Eddy Fifield]

‘Views’ is written and directed by Eddy Fifield and tells the tale of a man looking to kickstart his social media status by getting his girlfriend to shoot at him; with a hardback book being the only obstacle between his heart and the bullet. This was a really well executed short film – the cinematography is engaging and beautiful, thanks to some really restrained camera work and a muted colour palette. Fifield does a great job at building tension as a rising unease and anxiety invades the auditorium once the weapon is introduced, and the mix between observational framing and close ups creates a very distinct and looming sense of dread and realism. While simple, ‘Views’ hits the dramatic beats it wants to while vaguely commenting on the sensationalist nature of social media and ‘breaking out’ as an internet star. This, combined with strong performances and a closing shot that stayed with me all day, makes for an extremely strong short that I’d highly recommend.
Jordan Sellars

‘Wooly Hair’ [Dir: Monet Morgan]

In Monet Morgan’s ‘Wooly Hair’, a young woman decides to try to achieve a new hair style, but while attempting to find her ideal hair product she is confronted by her insecurities. The short film is able to convey strong themes like self-acceptance, naturalism and self-love whilst also being interestingly shot with a shallow depth of field and unique colour palette. Ultimately though, it falls flat due to a slow pace that feels unearned thanks to a third act that’s tainted by stuff performances and heavy theme-dumping.
Charlie McCarthy

‘VERT’ [Dir: Kate Cox]

Nick Frost, Nikki Amuka-Bird and Olivia Vinall star in Kate Cox’s ‘VERT’, a beautiful short film about a married couple who use a new piece of technology that shows them their ideal life, as wedding anniversary presents. The whole cast give incredibly raw and heart-warming performances which are highlight, but not overshadowed by mesmerising lighting and cinematography. The only off-putting part of the direction was the use of POV shots that, at times, felt unnecessary and out of place compared to how the rest of the film was shot. Despite this, the story, visuals and sound design are all combined to create an engaging short that tells a beautiful story that stuck with me for the rest of the day.
Charlie McCarthy

‘toni_with_an_i’ [Dir: Marco Alessi]

This next short comes from Marco Alessi and focuses our gaze on Toni, a lonesome young teenage girl who makes videos online for lip-syncing to her favourite artist. She has a hard time at school and her teacher recognises this. What follows is a rather touching, however simple, exploration of the power of social media, both positively and negatively. Toni is played elegantly and the film does a nice job of showing her vulnerability. The story is sweet and the tone is handled really well, offering us just enough time with the main character so that we care about what happens to her. It’s not wholly unique but one sequence in particular involving Toni truly expressing herself to the rest of the class is what stood out to me and made ‘toni_with_an_i’ worth checking out.
Jordan Sellars

‘New Bronx’ [Dir: Filip Ignatowicz]

‘New Bronx’ is a Polish short film that follows Natalia, an impulsive girl with a crush on a local boy. We watch as her crush turns into an obsession and suddenly everything she does is done to get closer to him. With an interesting use of mobile phone graphics, memorable music and an innocent and intriguing cast, the film is able to create a story that feels grounded and open to discuss real issues. Sadly, this realistic story feels like it fades when a key scene is poorly constructed, going against the solid foundation from earlier. The editing here is sloppy and rushed; plot points that should have had a lot of weight feel skipped over and the reactions of integral characters aren’t shown.
Charlie McCarthy

‘The Field’ [Dir: Tung Ying Hsieh]

Perhaps the most ambitious film I saw at the festival was Tung Ying Hsieh’s ‘The Field’. Set in assumedly the near future, we follow a man lost in a virtual reality world and unravelling strange occurrences found within it. We switch between the real and the virtual pretty seamlessly and the direction remains solid and impressive throughout the 14-minute run time. There is a sense that the film is begging to be longer though, as there isn’t a huge amount of time left for audiences to breath and grasp exactly what’s going on.  However, present here is a strong and a sign of a director looking to make something big. For me, the setup and second act were much stronger than the third as not everything felt clear within the first viewing, but I can’t deny the sheer sense of scope and production involved here. ‘The Field’ features some stunning cinematography from Micky Montoya and I really enjoyed the visual approach to the story, though there were definitely moments during certain scenes where another draft wouldn’t have hurt the film. Overall, I really liked ‘The Field’ and it definitely had some high production value behind it, the third act just didn’t come together as clearly as I’d hoped.
Jordan Sellars

‘COMEDY Shorts’

‘Whenever You’re Ready’ [Dir: Craig Ainsley]

‘Whenever You’re Ready’ kicked off the Comedy Shorts screening and struck very positively with the audience. We follow an actress going for an audition, though it hardly goes the way she intended it to as we see her channel her inner anxieties and frustrations into her performance, stunning the judges. It’s a charming and fun time with enough laughs and smart dialogue to keep you entertained. The vast majority of the hilarity rests on Kate O’Sullivan’s shoulders and she’s a fundamental reason the story works. The editing is also a large part of what makes it work and director Craig Ainsley handles the material really well, though the film does admittedly seem to just end. There is never really a crescendo to the story, more a fizzle. To keep it brief though, ‘Whenever You’re Ready’ was a highly enjoyable start to the screening and lead actress Kate O’Sullivan has some fantastic comedic timing.
Jordan Sellars

‘The Culture’ [Dir: Ernst De Geer]

‘The Culture’ was screened shortly after and was directed by Ernst De Geer. With by far the longest run time, The Culture stood out to me as one of the most awkwardly enjoyable films of the festival, with a very odd sense of humour sprinkled throughout. The story follows a musician (Herbert Nordrum) at a concert looking to watch his sister perform, but his seat is taken. He awkwardly attempts to get his seat back, only to find out that the seat thief happens to be in charge of the entire orchestra. It’s very reminiscent of Ruben Östlund’s ‘The Square’ in the sense that the film feels very much directionless at times but in the best way possible. It has a very fun story, one I’d imagine most viewers will be familiar with, though it does a great job at escalating the hilarity and tension between the two rivals.
Jordan Sellars

‘Straight Faces’ [Dir: Maj Jukic]

‘Straight Faces’ perfectly balances social commentary with witty satire. The story follows a small group of men, one of which begins to tell them of his encounter the night before. The film discusses obsessive homophobia and uses comedic editing to perfectly highlight this through a fantastic use of flashbacks and comedic timing.
Charlie McCarthy

‘Spooning’ [Dir: Rebecca Applebaum]

‘Spooning’ is a comedy that takes the shape of an interview with a theatre actress specialising in playing spoons, ranging from Hey Diddle Diddle to even Beauty and the Beast. Writer Julia Lederer is able to take this idea run with it perfectly. .The film discusses other cutlery, monopolising the spoon market and slew of other material involving this concept. Of all the films we saw at Aesthetica, this was by far the least serious and most refreshing. It excels in it’s simplicity.
Charlie McCarthy

‘White Guys Solve Sexism’ [Dir: Christopher Guerrero]

‘White Guys Solve Sexism’ tells the story of a pair of men who come to realise all of their favourite films are now sexist because of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. As a satirical comedy, the short film is able to discuss hyper-masculinity and self-congratulatory themes in a creative and comedic way. As the two main characters try to solve this problem, the film pokes fun at the film industry and has some great comedic timing while also remaining creative and engaging.
Charlie McCarthy

‘The Pick-Up’

To close out the festival, we have ‘The Pick-Up’. This was one of my favourite films that were screened thanks to a great lead performance and a highly enjoyable scenario, no matter how conventional it may feel. The story follows a guy down on his luck, struggling to get over his girlfriend from years ago. His sister is tired of his grumblings and calls him just plain “boring”. He gets a cab home but seems to immediately hit it off with the driver, who seems to be housing one or to secrets behind the wheel. The charming aspects of the film come not from the simplistic story but from fantastic line delivery. The script is tight and doesn’t overreach at any point. It’s short, sweet and a ton of fun.
Jordan Sellars