The 15th Annual Manhattan Short Film Festival — comprised of 10 finalists chosen from 520 entries originating in 49 countries — screens at various venues around Connecticut (and around the world) this week. On Friday, October 5, at 7 p.m., the Festival's founder, Nicholas Mason, will be on-hand at the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale, where you can view the 10 finalists — for free — and be interviewed by Mason, who will be recording interactions with film-goers for the festival's website. Already on the site, you can view transmissions from other host theaters.
Running 18 minutes or less, all the finalists will be screened in one evening, lasting roughly two hours. The festival is like an Olympics of short cinema, except here you can be a judge. Join over 100,000 participants from far-flung locales — such as St. Petersburg, Russia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Kathmandu, Nepal; Perth, Australia; and all but three of our 50 States — to choose the winner on ballots provided at the screening.
Previous winners have won the Oscar for Short Film, so you may be helping select a future nominee. As Mason says, "The real aim of this festival is bringing communities together via stories from around the world." A festival that began 15 years ago with Mason projecting "a handful of short films onto the side of a truck on a downtown Manhattan street" has "become like Earth Day — but with film."
The offerings are quite diverse:
From England, Two & Two: A hard-hitting story in which a teacher insists on a counter-factual lesson, which then becomes a grim lesson in the limits of freedom. Chilling.
From France, The Elaborate End of Robert Ebb: Ever wonder what it would feel like to be a hunted social outcast? What if, Gregor Samsa-like, you found yourself transformed into the kind of monster featured in B-movie films? Great ending "after" the ending.
From Holland, A Curious Conjunction of Coincidences: A very amusing and energetic short that shows how catastrophic unlikely conjunctions can become, eventually. The speed and skill of the transitions in time and location are impressive, and the inevitable disaster quite satisfying.
From Ireland, Cluck: One of the more psychologically in-depth films, featuring some wonderful child actors in an unsettling story, set in a boy's school, about the freakish, oppressive, nasty, and ultimately redeeming aspects of humanity.
From Norway, The Devil's Ballroom: A little parable about the need to be first—in polar exploration—and the way that inconvenient facts have a tendency to disappear from the historical record, very effectively told with almost no dialogue.
From Peru, Behind the Mirrors: A lurid tale of death, deceit, and corruption in a cheap hotel in Lima, involving rooms bugged with spy cameras and an unfortunate situation for the hapless concierge. The film boasts a gripping economy of detail and a compelling lead performance.
From Romania, Superman, Spiderman or Batman: Sad reality and childish fantasy combine in this touching film, featuring a glowing performance by its four-year-old star. Who is stronger, Superman or Spiderman? This is the one for the hankies.
From Russia, Where Does the Sea Flow: Starring popular Russian actress Oksana Akinshina, the film is a tense psychological drama between a mother and a young daughter. The skillful film creates a disturbing feel somewhat like Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now.
From Spain, Voice Over: A charming tale (in French, the language of love) which dovetails several situations involving horrendous obstacles and rapidly dwindling chances for survival only to end with… See for yourself. This one gets the 'awwww' award.
From United States, 92 Skybox Alonzo Mourning Rookie Card: Can any other country create slackers like the U.S.? This little paean to the belligerent but loving relationship between two brothers who behave like overgrown children at their father's death is filled with laughs and a knowing sense of what it is to be a "brother's keeper."
Mason himself says he has no idea which film will win, but has some ideas about what goes over best in certain locales. Connecticut is hosting 9 screenings. Get out to one and cast your vote for your community. Winners will be revealed on October 7. For information on venues and films: manhattanshort.com.
Manhattan Short Film Festival
Oct. 6, 8 pm, Bridgeport: The Bijou Theater, 275 Fairfield Ave., (203) 332-3228, bijoutheatre.com
Oct. 5, 8 pm, Danbury: The Palace Danbury, 165 Main St., (203) 794-9944, thepalacedanbury.com
Oct. 4 – 6 (8 pm, 7:30 pm, 2 pm), Hartford: The Wadsworth Athenaeum, 600 Main St., (860) 278-2670, thewadsworth.org,
Oct. 4, 7 pm, Hartford: Cinema City at the Palace, 330 New Park Ave., (860) 236-6677, bowtiecinemas.com
Oct. 5, 7 pm, New Haven: Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall St., (203) 432-0670, yale.edu/whc/
Oct. 4, 7 pm, New Haven: Criterion, 86 Temple St., (203) 498-2500, bowtiecinemas.com
Oct. 7, 3 pm, New London: Garde Arts Center, 325 State St., (860) 444-7373, gardearts.org
Oct. 7, 12 pm, New Milford: Bank Street Movie Theater, 46 Bank St., (860) 354-2122, bankstreettheater.com
Oct. 3, 7:30 pm, Stamford: The Avon, 272 Bedford St, (203) 967-3660, avontheatre.org
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