The Manhattan Short Film Festival is organized by an Aussie film lover, Nicholas Mason, out of offices in New York City. Thus its name. Festival headquarters received 844 entries from 52 countries this year, the event’s 19th go-round. From that enormous number, ten finalists were chosen. Those films now comprise the festival that goes on the road, screening more than 800 times in more than 250 cities on six continents in one week.
What’s more amazing than the numbers, and the breathtaking quality of the films, is that, in this festival, the judges are the people in the audience. After every show, moviegoers vote for their favorite film and actor, and that info is sent in to the Manhattan Short Film Festival offices to be tallied with all the other votes worldwide. (Results for this year will be announced on October 3, 2016.)
Flat Rock Cinema is the only Western North Carolina venue to host the festival. The two-day event last year proved so popular that Flat Rock Cinema owner Howard Molton decided to expand it to an entire week: two shows a day at 3 and 7pm. With 14 shows total, “that means more than 1,000 people can see these films,” says Molton.
Since demand is high in the 100-seat theater, tickets will be sold by reservation only. Call the theater starting September 15 to confirm availability (no online sales; seating is first-come first-served).
Writer/Director: André Øvredal
Norway, 12:35 min.
Norwegian, English subtitles.
This is one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen. A family is returning by car from a holiday. Like thousands of other cars, they are stuck in a traffic jam in a tunnel and are extremely nervous. “The tunnel isn’t dangerous,” the father assures his daughter, who is old enough to read (but maybe not understand) the slogan on the huge overhead sign: Population Reduction Without Discrimination. From a short story by American author Alice Glaser published in 1961 in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Masterful film, should go up for an Oscar.
Director: Kal Weber
England: 5:19 min.
An older man with a distinctive low-class accent grimly doles out a torrent of his “wisdom” to a young stranger. “Life is short and precious,” he joylessly spouts. She, in turn, challenges his arrogance, by giving him a taste of his own lecture. Disconcerting.
Kaputt/Broken: The Women’s Prison
Animated & Directed by Volker Schlecht & Alexander Lahl
Germany: 7 min.
German, with English subtitles
A documentary, told in animation, about two women who were prisoners in the infamous Hoheneck Castle, a prison in the former East Germany that used forced labor to make millions for both sides of the Iron Curtain. It’s a superb example of “animadoc,” a creative new film style that combines animation with documentary audio. “I want out of here,” screamed the women in the confinement cells. “Out of here.” You can’t forget this film even if you want to.
Ella Gets a Promotion?
Director: Richard Diaz & Mike Pusateri
USA: 8:42 min.
A loyal, hardworking employee finally receives the promotion she deserves. It comes from her annoying, phony new boss who speaks in smiley-face corporatese. In grim — all too realistic — hilarity, the employee feels forced to make a boss-free decision. Wonderful performances from two terrific actresses.
Director: Charlotte Scott-Wilson
The Netherlands: 20 min.,
With English subtitles.
A brilliant character study about a talented young musician who loses her grip on reality when one of her cello strings breaks during a performance. An unforgettable look at the pressures performers endure and the power of music to inspire them. Mesmerizing.
Director: Craig D Foster
Australia 8:27 min., English.
A man who’s afraid of being out after dark is forced to work overtime. While rushing home, more frustrating delays make him fear he is turning into a monster. Or is he just hallucinating? Everybody’s going to find out when he opens the door to his apartment and finds a surprise birthday party in full swing — uh-oh!
Director: Evelina Barsegian
Russia: 18:25 min.
Russian with English subtitles.
A sobering study in cynicism in contemporary Russia. Andrey, a young man in St. Petersburg, is paid to cry “bravo” to convince audiences that a bad play is worth applause. “The real actors are not on stage,” he says, “they’re in the audience.” His sorry love life reflects his contempt for everyone. Then he spies in the audience a beautiful woman he used to know. When he manages to meet her, the challenge becomes: can she live up to his dreams of love and authenticity, or will she turn out to be just like him?
Director: Tibo Pinsard
France, 14:05 min.
It’s 1952 Hollywood, and Henry Corso is the best-costumed gorilla in town. But how can he get the lovely, aloof leading lady to notice him, especially when the overbearing director is always ordering Henry to do unnatural things? Henry’s got one trick up his sleeve that none of the other actors have — he really is a big ape! Hilarious.
I Am A Pencil (“Je suis un Crayon”)
Animated & Directed by: Joe D’Arcy
Australia, 5:40 min.
An exquisite, haunting, animated masterpiece inspired by the 3 million people in France who marched in support of unity, peace, and freedom of expression on January 11, 2015, after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Should be required viewing for anyone, child or adult, who’s ever wanted to feel free with words.
The Last Journey of the Enigmatic Paul W.R
Director: Romain Quirot
France, 17 min.
French with English subtitles.
The Future: a desolate, dry, Mad Max world. The Red Moon is going to destroy Earth unless the “Last Hope” flight is flown there to solve the problem. Only one astronaut, “the enigmatic” Paul W.R, can save the planet — but it’s a guaranteed suicide mission. He disappears for a few days to connect with humanity, and with his ESP abilities, performs good deeds that will live beyond him. He sees the small spaceship and marches toward it. Marvelous, thoughtful, strange science fiction.
Manhattan Short Film Festival
Quick Take: Ten terrific short foreign films, From 3 minutes to 20 minutes.
Special Appeal: A chance to take part in a “global” film festival.
Presented by: Flat Rock Cinema, 2700 Greenville Hwy., Flat Rock. Call 828-697-2463 for reservations.
When: for one week September 23-September 29, two shows per day, 3 and 7pm.
More info: www.manhattanshort.com