The Island’s new Film Center at the Tisbury Marketplace will host the 15th annual Manhattan Short Film Festival this weekend. Filmgoers who attend screenings from Thursday through Sunday, September 27 to 30, will vote for the winning film from among 10 chosen as finalists, out of 520 entries from 49 participating countries worldwide.
“While the goal of any festival is to discover and promote new talent, the real aim of this festival is bringing communities together via stories from around the world,” says Nicholas Mason, founder and director of the Manhattan Short Film Festival.
Most of the entries convey a serious mood, but they narrate unusual stories in very different ways. The series starts off with “The Devil’s Ballroom,” from Norway, a story inspired by Norwegian explorers. A man buries a colleague in a snowbound wasteland, then sets off with a sled but no dogs; they may have been eaten. A spinning compass tells this arctic explorer he’s reached his destination, and he plants a flag at what the audience must presume is one of the poles. When another explorer shows up, he must decide what to do. The narrative ellipses in this film will keep the audience working hard.
“A Curious Conjunction of Coincidences,” from the Netherlands, takes century-long leaps in time and location to tell the stories of men challenged in similar ways by the unlucky events of their days. From Russia comes “Where Does the Sea Flow,” the first finalist selected from that nation. This world premiere tells the story of a woman who is assaulted and tries to answer the questions of the little girl who is the product of her rape.
A classroom of little boys in a Farsi-speaking country provides the fantasy setting for “Two & Two.” This entry from England has also been nominated for a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Award). Their authoritarian teacher gives the students a math lesson they find hard to accept. In “Cluck,” an entry from Ireland that offers a lesson in survival, children in an orphanage cope with a strange new arrival and turn the tables on the adults in charge of them. Of the 500 boys who auditioned for parts in this short, only one, who plays Cowboy, had acting experience.
“Behind the Mirrors,” from Peru, is set in a sleazy motel, where two employees discover the nude body of a woman who has apparently been murdered. As the plot unfolds, one layer of depravity and corruption follows another. Director Julio O Ramos’s film “Doctor’s Job” was a finalist last year. Watch out for the antics of a slimy green monster in “The Elaborate End of Robert Ebb,” a second entry from England. It is set in the 1950s and pays homage to low-budget “B” movie king Roger Corman. Romania’s entry, “Superman, Spiderman or Batman” features a father and his little boy. When they visit the boy’s mother in the hospital, he brings along a special present.
The U.S. entry is called “92 Skybox Alonzo Mourning Rookie Card.” It concerns the way two brothers handle the funeral service of their father and gives a lesson in sibling relationships. From Spain comes “Voice Over,” where a man experiences a series of three nightmarish dreams that take him back to a childhood memory. The narrator is played by a well-known French announcer, Feodor Atkine.
The Vineyard is one of 300 locations on six continents where audiences will watch the shorts, then pick their favorite. Mr. Mason will announce the winning short on Sunday, October 7.
Manhattan Short Film Festival, Thursday, Sept. 27, Friday, Sept. 28, Saturday, Sept. 29, Sunday, September 30, 7:30 pm. MV Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. Tickets $10 ($8 MV Film Society members). For more information, see mvfilmsociety.com.