Manhattan shorts: Something for everyone’s palate

"A Doctors Job" – one of many shorts in the Manhattan Short Film Festival.

Like a tasting menu at a world-class restaurant, the Manhattan Short Film Festival offers a little something for everyone. Sponsored by the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society (MVFS), the festival’s 10 finalists will play Friday, Sept. 23, and again Saturday, Sept. 24, at Vineyard Haven’s Katharine Cornell Theatre.

Hosting the festival for the eighth consecutive year on the Vineyard, MVFS will show short films selected out of 598 entries from 48 countries. They include works from Sweden, Australia, Switzerland, Scotland, Canada, Hungary, Peru, Egypt, and two from the U.S.

This reviewer’s personal favorite is American director George Zaverdas’s “David & Goliath.” Based on a true story from World War II, it combines suspense, an amazing dog, and a miracle of sorts.

When the film opens, Nazi soldiers are chasing the central character, David, through woods. Suddenly he comes to a clearing where a vicious-looking German shepherd is barking ferociously behind a fence. A cottage in the background completes the scene.

David seems to have a Solomon’s choice to make. That’s when this short film takes you places that will astonish and enlighten you.

Egyptian director Abu Bakr Shawky’s “Martyr Friday” comes in as a second favorite. Working with TV commentary and footage probably derived from Facebook or other social media sources, Mr. Shawky tracks the Cairo-based revolution that began last January and ousted President Hosni Mubarek after 60 years of oppressive rule.

It cannot have been easy to put together this amazing documentary about the three weeks between Cairo’s “Day of Rage” and “Martyr Friday.” As might be expected, the film is rough around the cinematic edges, but it has a compelling story to tell, one that continues to unfold today.

Like “David & Goliath,” Swedish director Ruben Ostlund’s “Incident by a Bank” fictionalizes a true story about an incident that happened to him and a friend. While gathering up their video equipment, they find themselves spectators at a bank robbery. The results are intriguing and often funny.

Laughter rules in Australian director Christopher Stollery’s “Dik,” a comedy of misunderstandings that leads to some stunning personal revelations by the parents of a six-year-old. Little Andrew comes home from school with a drawing that includes a sentence that only a first grader could manufacture, and disaster unfolds.

Motherhood has just happened to 14-year-old Ilinka in Swiss director Geraldine Zosso’s heartrending “Mak.” Her Moldavian mother wants Ilinka to take the infant to a depository where unwanted babies can be left, but baby karma takes over.

Borrowing its title — if not its comic style — from Lucille Ball, Scottish director Colin Kennedy’s “I Love Luci” mixes up a young drug addict’s pet with unrequited love. Luci the dog and false teeth figure prominently from start to finish in this triangulated romance.

“The Legend of Beaver Dam,” by Canadian directors Jerome Sable and Eli Batalio, spoofs underground classics like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” with a dash of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” thrown in for good measure. Not for the squeamish, this short unravels the story of camping trip where the other campers pick on nerdy Danny and a Freddy-like monster.

Neil LaBute, whose theatrical work has appeared at The Vineyard Playhouse several times, directs an American finalist, “Sexting.” Shot in black and white, this film uses closeups to let a beautiful young woman who’s having an affair with a married man dig herself into a hole when she meets his wife for coffee.

Grown-up campers take the stage in Hungarian director Karpati Gyorgy Mor’s “The Forest.” After one man makes a very unpleasant discovery, he changes his mind about the pleasures of the outdoors.

Peruvian director Julio Ramos’s “A Doctor’s Job” tracks the life-saving exploits of Dr. Ramon Moran, who drives a taxi in his spare time to support his ill mother. The ordinary-looking fare he picks up packs some surprises.

Founded by Nicholas Mason, the Manhattan Short Film Festival plays in more than 200 spots around the world as well as on the Vineyard. Audience members vote for their favorite film, and the resulting winner worldwide will be announced on Sunday, Oct. 2.


The four-part BBC documentary “Sissinghurst” will screen at the Chilmark Library, starting with Part 1 on Wednesday, Sept. 28. Part 2 plays Wednesday, Oct. 5; Part 3, on Wednesday, Oct. 12; and Part 4, on Wednesday, Oct. 19. For more information on this film event sponsored by Friends of the Chilmark Library, call 508-645-3360.

Manhattan Short Film Festival, 7:30 pm, Friday, Sept. 23 & Saturday, Sept. 24, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. $10; $7 MVFS members. Doors open at 7 pm. For more information, see

Brooks Robards, of Oak Bluffs and Northampton, is a frequent contributor to The Times.