THE Aesthetica Short Film Festival returns for its eighth year in York from November 7 to11, richer and more diverse than ever.

Whereas the first year's official programme ran to 32 pages, now it has expanded to 260, still with an eye for emerging voices in cinema while shining a light on where the industry is headed fast.

"It really has been a heck of a journey developing this festival," says director Cherie Federico. "There hadn't been a film festival in York; it had to be ambitious, not only presenting new cinema in York but establishing York as the ideal city to present film.

"Last year's festival brought a £1.6 million boost to the city's economy and we had 24,000 individual admissions, and this year it's an even more exciting festival with several new features.

York Press:

Konstantin Enste and Bianca Budenbender's Rhabarbar Spritz​

"These include narrative and documentary feature films for the first time, travelling from esteemed festivals such as Toronto International Film Festival, Sheffield Doc/Fest and Raindance, and the VR Lab at York Theatre Royal, with five curated programmes of Virtual Reality films in the Keregan Room.

"We had 200 entries for the VR screenings, which we're running in partnership with the London College of Communication, where they're launching the first MA in VR, led by Dan Bartlett. That's why they've signed up with ASFF as this festival is seen as a great showcase, and the entire city becomes the venue for the UK film industry for five days."

Thrilled by VR filmmakers' response to ASFF, Cherie says: "The calibre of the Virtual Reality films is so high, given that it's a new addition to the festival and you don't know how wide the word will get out, but as I say, the quality is exceptional. The films will be complemented by a daily VR panel discussion in the colonnade or upper foyer at the Theatre Royal."

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Agathe Riedinger's Premier Acte (First Act)

A record 3,000 films were entered for this year's BAFTA Qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival, from which 300 have been selected in 12 genres spanning Advertising; Animation; Artists’ Film; Comedy; Dance; Documentary; Drama; Experimental; Family Friendly; Fashion; Music Video and Thriller. Fifteen locations will be in use, including the Everyman cinema, in Blossom Street, making its debut; York Theatre Royal becoming the festival hub and another newcomer, Micklegate Social, offering immersive VR film experiences daily from 10am to 6pm.

The new feature film strand may stretch the Aesthetica Short Film Festival beyond short films, but Cherie believes it is an important progression. "We'll be showing 20 feature films, both narrative and documentary films, and I'm very proud that we've allowed feature films into the festival as a 'legacy feature' because many of our prize winners have progressed to making feature films," she says. "For us to be a festival that is all about talent development, this is a natural move forward for us.

"Carol Salter, for example, won our Aesthetica DVD competition in 2010 and now she returns to ASFF with Almost Heaven. That's what I wanted to happen: someone who engaged with us back then, now shows her new work."

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Aesthetica Short Film Festival director Cherie Federico: "it's an even more exciting festival this year," she says

Dominic West, Billie Piper, Jack O’Connell and Joan Collins will be among the familiar British faces on screen, while on the industry front, ASFF has summoned key industry practitioners to share their knowledge on the ever-expanding horizon of cinema and how we consume films, with brands such as Vogue, Dazed and Caviar all taking part in the festival.

Aspiring or emerging filmmakers can attend industry talks and take advantage of networking opportunities; key figures from Film4, BBC Film and the BFI will offer advice; guest speakers will include Irish filmmaker and essayist Mark Cousins, comedy actress, screenwriter and director Alice Lowe and BAFTA-winning editor Mick Audsley, who will share insights from the cutting-room floor.

Pitching sessions for filmmakers will be another plus point for ASFF. "The future for this festival is that York becomes THE place where people can come to pitch their work to distributors and financiers," says Cherie. "It's really significant to the contribution we're now making to the film landscape, bringing these major players to York.

York Press: Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2018

Francesco Mazza and Simone Giampaolo's Lynx & Birds

"We also have an exceptional programme of masterclasses with really high-level UK film talent coming to York, which is very exciting, very special, for us, making York one of the centres for film in the UK."

As for the future, "I'm very keen to develop ASFF into a festival that will show premieres of feature films," says Cherie. "I'd be very interested in us doing this because it would add a level of expectancy and excitement, showing films before they're snapped up for distribution."

More immediately, ASFF has been upgraded from a BAFTA Recognised festival to a BAFTA Qualifying festival, another sign of the importance of an annual event already named as a "festival of national significance" by the British Film Institute.

Aesthetica Film Festival runs from November 7 to 11. For the full festival programme and tickets, go to