THE sixth Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York was the best one yet, and that’s official.

“It was the most successful to date with well over 20,000 admissions,” said Cherie Federico, the festival’s delighted director. “All of our venues, speakers and delegates were amazing this year. It truly is a special event and I’m already revving up for 2017 with ambitions to make it longer and introduce more industry opportunities. I must thank the brilliant Aesthetica team too.”

After 400 films from 40 countries and 80 events, spread over 18 venues in four days last week, Cherie tantalised the audience at Sunday night’s awards ceremony at the National Centre of Early Music by announcing: “I’m contemplating stretching this event out to five days”. The ensuing cheers from filmmakers and festivalgoers alike may further encourage Aesthetica to take that next step for its seventh year.

“It’s a symbiotic relationship,” Cherie continued. “Festivals need filmmakers and filmmakers need festivals.”

More cheers followed, and given that only 13 per cent of films entered for competition at ASFF 2016 made it to the festival programme, maybe a fifth day will enable even more films to be screened, along with showcase screenings, masterclasses and opportunities such as Meet The Filmmakers and the Meet The Film Festivals Marketplace.

“I like to think that when you leave the festival after four days of films, you are in some way different to when you arrived,” said Cherie in her festival-closing speech, and she was not referring to after-show parties or lack of sleep.

Nevertheless, the NCEM was suitably candle-lit for weary yet excited festival survivors as they gathered at the feet of According To McGee gallery co-director Greg McGee, the ever loquacious/”needlessly polysyllabic” master of ceremonies for the night’s 15 awards.

York Press:

Winners at the 2016 Aesthetica Short Film Festival awards ceremony at the NCEM: Bruno Decc, Callum Hill, Daina O. Pusic, Fabio Palmieri, Dawn Han, Lewis Rose and Dejan Mrkic with Aesthetica editorial assistant Kate Simpson. Picture: Jim Poyner Photography

British director John Wright’s Robo-Trumble, featuring a heavily pregnant former Pussycat Doll Kimberley Wyatt, won the Advertising prize; Sunit Parekh-Gaihede’s Machine, a Danish story of a couple’s struggles with tragedy, took home the Animation Prize; and British director Callum Hill’s Solo Damas received the Artists’ Film award for its depiction of a fragmented journey through the dark canal ways of Mexico City’s outskirts.

The Comedy prize went to the German film 90 Grad Nord, Detsky Graffam’s black-humoured look at our belief in systems; Marlene Millar’s Lay Me Low, wherein ten performers communicate both mourning and paradoxically intimacy, was judged the best Dance film; and Italian director Fabio Palmieri’s paean to migrants fleeing war and persecution, Irregulars, was the pick of the Documentary films.

The Experimental prize was won by Bruno Decc’s Two Signs’ Den: Epilogue, a Brazilian work exploring alternate realities; the Drama prize was awarded to Dejan Mrkic’s sensuous Australian portrait of a young cellist tackling the fragility of her identity when her hearing fades; and Victor Claramunt’s Breaking Rules, from Spain, was the Fashion flavour of the festival with its girls’ boarding-school anarchy.

British director Lewis Rose collected the Music Video prize for UK beatbox champion Beardyman’s bittersweet tale of lost raver love, Mountainside, while Cork Man, Dawn Han’s American tale of a man trying to hide the hole in head, won the Thriller prize.

The York Youth Award winner was Peter Stanley-Ward’s Litterbugs, a British tale of a young inventor, a pint-sized superhero and town bullies, from the Family Friendly category, and Daina O Pusic’s British comedy about conjoined twin sisters having their biggest fight to date, Rhonna & Donna, was selected for the inaugural Northern Film School Award for Best Screenplay.

The People’s Choice gave the thumbs-up to Stephen Parker’s British drama Dust And Resin and the night climaxed with Fabio Palmieri returning to the stage to receive the Festival Winner’s prize for Irregulars. “Thank you so much,” he said, collecting his thoughts. “I can’t believe it. YEAH!”

And with that exclamation he summed up ASFF 2016. Yeah! What a festival.