A typical trip to York might normally involve a foray through the old town’s cobbled streets or perhaps an exploration of its ancient cathedral, so how did I find myself in this northern city stuck inside a darkened room on a Saturday afternoon watching an animated re-creation of a prison riot?

Having been whisked away by an early morning train on Friday we took the 9:30am train for a weekend trip to York, myself and several other students arrived to experience the Aesthetica Film Festival. Having never been to a film festival before and only seen the glamorous red carpet of Cannes on the telly I had no idea what to expect.

Screenings for the entries took place across the whole city. From underground cinemas, church halls, and university lecture theatres York was filled to the brim with screenings of short films of all kinds. The short films were divided into genres which one could choose to see in one-hour blocks throughout the day. genres included comedy, music, documentary, and even dance. I largely enjoyed all of the genres apart from comedy where I found that I didn’t enjoy most of the films. 

Rushing around this historic city while hurriedly checking Google maps for the next screening its rich cultural past was apparent. I was especially impressed with York cathedral which has stood proud in central York since 637 and is the largest cathedral in northern Europe. I was unfortunately not able to go inside due to my tight schedule, but I would love to in the future.

As well as watching films all day we also attended several workshops held by industry professionals who gave us an in-depth perspective into what its like to work in their respective field. My favourite of these was an interesting discussion given by visual effects artist Stuart Penn who recounted his experience in this emerging field and especially his extensive work on the ground-breaking 2013 film Gravity which was almost entirely created using visual effects. He gave an interesting perspective into what goes on behind the scenes in creating advanced visual effects even in films that you would not expect.

Out of all the film genres on show at Aesthetica the I most enjoyed watching drama films, the films I saw contained a variety of different experiences while all still focusing on a strong and emotionally gripping narrative. Favourites of mine included Step Back, Wine Lake, and Long Distance. My favourite film that I saw that weekend was probably the Hungarian film Something Must Happen by Daniel Botos which features a group of friends reconciling with the tragic suicide of their friend by going out for a weekend in the countryside. This film took me on an emotional journey and despite having moments of tragedy ultimately has a hopeful ending.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to York. It is a beautiful city to wonder through while navigating its pub-choked streets. The film festival itself was an incredible experience which I would recommend (if you happen to enjoy spending your Saturday sitting in a dark room).