Greg McGee, compère for Aesthetica Short Film Festival

By Greg McGee

Greg McGee, compère for Aesthetica Short Film Festival

It would be about this time of year that I would be preparing notes for my annual role as compère for Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF), the BAFTA-Qualifying international film festival based right here, in York. It has been a highlight of the year for 10 years, filled as it is with over 400 films from all over the world and 100 industry events, culminating for me, as it has done since day dot, with a simultaneously exciting and terrifying hour on the stage lubricating the cue card shenanigans and handing out awards to effortlessly cool, global filmmakers.

ASFF has become a cinema leviathan. It began in York, this progressive, generous hearted, experimental leviathan began in a historic city, which in many ways helped its early success. York's a wonderful city, straddling, as it does, ancient heritage and the glitter of innovation. ASFF has always helped cement that interfuse.

In 2014, the United Nations awarded York the title of City of Media Arts. From the git go, with some sinking predictability, naysayers trilled: 'what does that mean? Isn't it just another load of hot air?'. ASFF has always helped provide the answer. For the 3 days, every year, this ancient city becomes a cinema, and the cinema becomes the city. THAT'S what a City of Media Arts is, and creatives in York thrive because of it. 

ASFF is the largest short film festival in the UK. Its mother's milk is innovative programming, industry links, networking, and all the exposure it brings to everyone that takes part. It's got the BAFTA seal of approval, it's obviously internationally well regarded, and it's experienced by hundreds of people who visit all of these wonderful spaces, which is simultaneously radical and poignant, especially bearing in mind what havoc 2020 has brought. 

For a while back there, in an epoch in which too many of us watched cinematic works of art on mobile phones, or downloaded them illegally, it was pleasingly unorthodox to get your shoes, your coat on, your umbrella and go and walk to a film event. Now in 2020, out of necessity, and in light of the pandemic, ASFF is going virtual, bringing the best in new cinema direct to your home.

And it is top quality too. One of the most sensitive litmus tests of any genre is how it well it exports, how well cultural gestures can cross pollinate from county to the next: there are approx 50 countries represented in this year's ASFF: USA, Canada, Australia, Israel, Lebanon, France, Spain, Denmark, China. Everyone of the participating films connects, whether it's via experimental films, music videos, dramas. Cinema brings us closer together. Crying, laughing, leaving with extra swagger: when you hear of a film student from University of Edinburgh, crying her heart out over a work of art that has inbuilt the blood, sweat and tears of a filmmaker from Cuba, it really shows you the power of modern film, and how it can enhance us, change us, sensitise us, or quicken the beat of your heart (remember that?), and I have to say nowhere is that more elegantly distilled than in Aesthetica Short Film Festival.

It's on this year and it's online. Join me and luxuriate in the best of modern cinema: