Now in its 16th year, the annual Manhattan Short Film Festival returns to the Island this weekend, sharing screen time at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center with “Blancanieves” from the recent International Film Festival. Filmgoers who attend one of the screenings of the Manhattan Shorts’ ten finalists will vote for their favorite, and for the first time this year will also help choose the best actor.
The finalists have been chosen from a field of 628 entries representing 48 nations. This year the entries come from the U.S., England, France, Ireland, Finland, and Australia, and they range in length from 18 to six-and-a-half minutes. All but two are live action.
The subject matter is satisfyingly broad, ranging from comedy and history to political suspense and travelogue. The Australian entry opens the program with “#30.” This comedy portrays a young actress giving her all as she tries out for a part in a production of “Hamlet.” A second comic entry follows from Finland in “Do I Have to Take Care of Everything,” where a family oversleeps and races to attend a wedding.
The mood turns darker with an English take on terrorism in “Friday.” The camera watches as a teenager plots revenge for the loss of his mother to a terrorism attack. In one of two entries from France, “No Comment” presents very different exchanges between a young woman and two male passersby in Paris’s Jardin du Luxembourg. Also from France, “Faces from Places” animates its three brief stories about a Pakistani kite flying contest, moose-hunting in Quebec, and a hunt for a dog’s statue in Moscow. “Irish Folk Furniture,” the entry from that nation, also uses animation in a vignette about the role household effects play in rural Irish life.
In a powerful look at how music may influence culture, a U.S. entry, “Black Metal,” follows a heavy metal band member home in the aftermath of a violent incident attributed to the band’s music. A second U.S. film, “I Am a Great Big Ball of Sadness,” takes an entirely different tack. This short examines the anomie rife in modern society by watching as three urbanites at a roof-top party carry on a conversation with varying degrees of intimacy. The third U.S. entry delves into the history of Russian Jews during the Crimean War. Soldiers try to conscript a 10-year-old Jewish boy, a common practice at the time. A second English entry, “Kizmet Diner,” offers a poignant story of a young woman who conveys her longing for love through song.
Voting takes place in more than 300 cities worldwide, and results will be posted on the Internet at www.ManhattanShort.com on Sunday, October 6. Viewers can learn the outcome of the local vote at the M.V. Film Society website and Facebook site.
Alternating with the Manhattan Shorts is Spain’s 2013 Foreign Language Oscar entry, “Blancanieves.” Director Pablo Berger has transposed his retelling of the 200-year-old fairy tale about Snow White into a black-and-white silent film replete with bullfighting, as well as a masochistically evil stepmother and a band of bullfighting dwarfs. Macarena García plays the beautiful Snow White, who after much tribulation grows up to become a bullfighter like her father. Through its combination of striking photography and haunting music, “Blancanieves” turns this children’s fable into an entirely adult pastiche of passion and violence.
Film: “Manhattan Short Film Festival,” Friday, September 27, and Saturday, September 28, 7:30 pm; Sunday, September 29, 4 pm, Martha’s Vineyard Film Center.
“Blancanieves,” Friday, September 27, and Saturday, September 28, 4 pm; Sunday, September 29, 7:30 pm, Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. Tickets are $12 (MV Film Society members $9). For information and tickets, see mvfilmsociety.com.