One of my favorite annual events is the Manhattan Short Film Festival, every September. Last night it played in my hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia and will play in many more places throughout the rest of the week.
For the uninitiated, the MSFF solicits short films from all over the world (this year there were 429 entries from 42 countries) and they pick twelve finalists. During one week, the week of September 22-28, this program is viewed in 115 separate locations throughout the world. The audience votes for their favorite short film and the winner gets an Avid Media Composer valued at $2500. The final viewing location is in—where else?—Manhattan, New York. There the winner will be announced. And shortly after that, the winner will be posted on the internet.
It’s an exciting contest and I was thrilled to be a part of it. It’s a lot of fun to see these great shorts and then finally to judge them, picking out the best.
Usually in a group of shorts there are some lousy ones mixed in with the good ones, but not so in the MSFF. While some do shine above others, the least of them is still pretty good.
Some of the better ones I saw last night included “New Boy,” an Irish film about an African boy who must make a new home for himself in Ireland and make friends with classmates who have no understanding of the horror he lived through, and “Sour Milk,” an Israeli film about an Arab shopkeeper who tries to save a little girl when Arabs attack Jewish settlers in Jerusalem in 1929.
Another really good movie was “The Golden Thread,” a Spanish film about an interesting connection between two women who have never met, both of whom have relationship problems. And I particularly enjoyed “Ripple,” a British film about a young man driving across country to meet his girlfriend. As the film starts, out of nowhere, someone throws an egg at his car—something I can personally identify with since that once happened to me—and this incident leads to another which leads to another, creating a ripple-effect, leading the man down an increasingly darkening path.
Two other films, the American “Rachel” and the British “Mother Mine,” had a lot in common. They were both about younger women doing something very emotionally difficult. In the first, a pregnant young woman who apparently was raped is meeting the parents who will adopt her baby. In the second, a slightly older woman who had been given up for adoption three decades earlier has tracked down her birth-mother and wants to meet her. Both are very moving and they both have surprise twist endings.
The funniest short was “Teat Beat of Sex,” an animated, American film by Signe Baumane, formerly of Latvia, who describes in great comic detail her teenage discovery of her sexuality, the boys who weren’t very helpful, and the older man who finally took her virginity. It is illustrated with hilarious metaphorical images. This short is actually shown in several shorter episodes, throughout the presentation. It’s a serious contender for first prize. When I saw it last night, the audience was howling with laughter. When I had to vote, it was close, but it ended up being my second choice.
However, finally, I voted for “Make My Day,” a Danish film about a father and son who are both big fans of Clint Eastwood. The son has twisted his foot running away from bullies at school and now the father is taking him to the hospital to have it looked at. By a coincidence, the doctor at the hospital turns out to have been someone who bullied the father years ago when he was a kid. Now the father and son must come to their own conclusions about what it is that Clint Eastwood stands for and the lessons for their lives that they take from him and his movies.
If you get a chance, you should definitely check out the Manhattan Short Film Festival. It’s a pretty cool experience. Each short is introduced by its director and it’s fun, at the end, to discuss with your friends which film you’re voting for.
To find out if it’s playing near you, go here:
And to find out which film won, after 10pm on Sunday the 28th, check out the festival’s website:
I will also post the winner here for the benefit of those who are too lazy to click the above link. So check back here in five days.
Edited 9/28/08 11:30pm: Just announced. The winner was “New Boy.” Congratulations to director Steph Green!