“Manhattan Short”

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This is, of course, the Manhattan Short Film Festival.  Here is what the theater said about it:

An extraordinary global event takes place the week of September 28th to October 7th 2011 when over 100,000 people in over 300 cities across six continents gather in cinemas, galleries, Universities, museums and cafes for one purpose…to view and vote on our finalists’ films in the annual Manhattan Short Film Festival!

Their mission is to unite audiences from all corners of the globe for one week via the most compelling short films submitted to them each year. Our tagline “One World One Week One Festival” is the mantra that sets the Manhattan Short Film Festival apart from any other film event of the year.

Manhattan Short is your chance to see the next generation of filmmakers from around the world. Over the past ten years, six of their films were nominated for Oscars in the short film category. Many of the finalists have gone on to make notable feature films and this festival believes in the notion that it is “The public that creates stars”. And for a short film, there is no bigger public than the worldwide public of  Manhattan Short.

This year, there did not seem to be a clear winner — my companion and I decided to vote for the same one, but they were all pretty good little films.   The finalists were selected from more than 500 entries.  Some I did like better than others, but that doesn’t mean the others were not good.

My stepson, who is a film buff, stated today that he does not like short films — I find that I actively do, and I really enjoy festival screenings like this.   It’s a different art from making a full-length movie, the same way writing a short story is, from a novel.   My local theater often shows one before the main feature, and seeing those has been very enjoyable also.   It is remarkable how much a good short film can get across in just a few minutes — some of the ones described below seemed much longer than they actually were (in a good way!).   And sometimes it only takes a few minutes to make a big point.

Here are the 2012 Finalists, their synopses, and my opinions.

The Devil’s Ballroom — Director:  Henrik M. Dahlsbrakken, Norway, 15m30s —  On a perilous journey to the North Pole, an Arctic explorer makes a critical decision with lifelong consequences.

*This was basically a film without dialogue — it created its mood very well, with that great Scandinavian cinematography.   But, the context was not stated in the film, so I didn’t get some of the depth of meaning.   If I had had time to read the program beforehand, it would really have helped me appreciate this one better.

A Curious Conjunction of Coincidences — Director:  Joost Reijmers, The Netherlands, 8m34s —  Bad luck connects three men together even though they live in different centuries.  THIS ONE GOT SECOND PLACE.

*This was cute, with some animation included and great special effects at the end.   And of course its being Dutch gave it a leg up in my opinion.  But it didn’t hang together as well as it could have.

Where Does the Sea Flow — Director:  Vitaly Saltykov, Russia, 14m — A mother comes to grips with a precocious young daughter and the violent circumstances of her birth.

*The actresses were just lovely — so believable.  The story — well, not much story, just a situation — was depicted well, and the scenery was great.  I did think there was more of the orange-dress-on-the-riverbank scene than there needed to be, however, and unnecessary repetition of it.  By the way, the violent circumstances were not actually about the child’s birth.

Two & Two —  Director:  Babak Anvari, UK, 8m25s — In a school run by an authoritarian regime, a seemingly ridiculous decree becomes a syllabus for terror.

*The premise for this one was so, well, ridiculous that it both heightened the scariness of the point the film was making and made it easier to perceive.  Although it was slotted in as a UK film, in fact it was shot in Farsi and was depicting the filmmaker’s native Iran.  Brrr.

Cluck —  Director:  Michael Lavelle, Ireland, 18m57s — Feathers are ruffled at the orphanage when a new arrival threatens to upset the pecking order.

*There seem to be a lot of Oliver Twist-like short films these days — well, this one had a different twist, along with all the usual (bad school personnel, child rebels, dark dormitory scenes, etc.).  It also had a happy ending, my personal preference.  I have to say, the child actor in the lead role was some performer.

Behind the Mirrors — Director:  Julio O. Ramos, Peru, 12m10s — When one of the night’s customers at a disreputable motel leaves an unexpected mess, the young manager sees an opportunity that may change his family’s fortunes forever.

*The synopsis is a bit of a euphemism, but this was a pretty good little movie.  It had rather an O. Henry denouement, which I didn’t even guess beforehand.   There have been other interesting short films from Peru, I think.  Good for them.

The Unfortunate End of Robert Ebb — Director:  Clément Bolla, FX Goby, Matthieu Landour, UK/France, 12m50s — A  monster terrorizes a town and induces collective hysteria, with hilarious results.

*This is the one we ended up voting for, just because it was a rollicking good little movie.   I missed one important thing early on, I guess — how did he get inside the monster suit? — but it just rolled on from scene to scene, getting funnier.  The very last scene tied up a loose end from early on in a cool way.  I think I voted for it because it didn’t pretend to be high art or demonstrate special technique or make a scary point about the world — it was just an entertaining little movie, well done in all aspects.  It was in UK English, though it was slotted in for France onscreen — now that I think of it,  that fact might have connected it to British comedy like Wallace and Gromit — that didn’t hurt, if so.
Superman, Spiderman or Batman — Director: Tudor Giurgiu, Romania, 11m — Inspired by his favorite comic book heroes, a young boy tries to save the day.  THIS ONE GOT FIRST PLACE.
*I did manage to read the program during Intermission, and unfortunately, the writeup for this one just talked about how hard it was to shoot with this little boy.   So that was what I was thinking about, instead of getting lost in the story and caught up by the characters.  If I hadn’t known that, I might have enjoyed it more.   It was interesting seeing a bit of everyday Romania, though.   And I thought I could discern some cognates with English words in the spoken Romanian.
’92 Skybox Alonzo Mourning Rookie Card — Director:  Todd Sklar, USA, 12m — Brothers Jim and Dave sort out their differences in extreme fashion when their father dies.
*This one was lively and interestingly done, but what was the point?  Two brothers fight and make up at the end, but there was no epiphany, no life-changing moment of realization or anything.   I took away nothing that would make me believe they wouldn’t just do this again sometime soon.   And I didn’t actually understand the ending.  Maybe I will ask my companion whether he did.  Surprisingly, though, the program states that the budget was only about $1000 — I think they did really well, and I would not have guessed.  (But production budget was not the problem — it was the script.)
Voice Over —  Director: Martin Rosete, Spain, 9m50s — A series of life-threatening experiences pale in comparison to a situation that requires real courage.  THIS ONE GOT THIRD PLACE.

*The still that advertises “Manhattan Short” comes from this movie.   I guess the point is that the three tried-and-true dangerous movie scenarios are not really the movie — the program didn’t get that across, so I was expecting a heavier tone than it turned out there was.  Kind of sweet, though.  Interestingly, though this was slotted for Spain, it was all in French — that was fun.

When I find out which one won, I will add that here.  SEE ABOVE — ALAS, MY FAVORITE ONLY CAME IN NINTH.  BOO.

 

[If anything looks odd, sorry — for some reason I am having a terrible time with paragraph breaks in this one.]

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