Manhattan Short Film Festival: You be the judge


Island moviegoers will help select the winning entry from 10 international finalists in the Manhattan Short Film Festival this Friday, September 24 or Saturday, September 25. Now in its 12th year, the festival is the first such global event and its largest one.

Now in their seventh year of participation, Vineyard filmgoers usually succeed in picking the film ultimately chosen to win by viewers from the 200 cities worldwide where the shorts are screened.

This year’s finalists, most of which run between 10 and 15 minutes, include entries from Croatia, Mexico, Madagascar, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Poland, Germany, and Italy. Themes range from serious subjects like immigration, murder and bullying, to more whimsical ones such as a man who starts floating or a couple with dog faces.

Mexican director Eduardo Covarrubias Diaz takes on the issue of immigration in “Underground,” which is based on a true story about a boy shot in the throat by an immigration official. In “Echo,” director Magnus Van Horn reconstructs a brutal murder, based on a true story, in an attempt to understand why two boys committed it.

Through a series of animated drawings, “Madagascar” takes viewers to the fourth-largest island in the world, located off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. The short’s French director Bastien Dubois uses a special technique where drawings are projected into a 3-D model.

Two of the festival shorts are set at swimming pools. In Irish director Thomas Hefferon’s “The Pool,” a group of boys sneak into their school’s indoor swimming pool and participate in an incident of bullying. Michelle, the central character in Australian director Mairi Cameron’s “Push Bike,” discovers her clothes have been stolen from a pool changing room, and she must bicycle home naked with surprising consequences.

From Canada comes “A Little Inconvenience” by Helene Florent. This light-hearted fantasy is based on the director’s short story, written as a teenager, about a man who wakes up and discovers he literally cannot keep his feet on the ground. “12 Years” by German director Daniel Nocke uses animation techniques to tell a story about the breakup of a man and a woman who have expressive dog faces.

War-related stories from Poland and Italy round out the roster of festival films. “Party,” the entry by Croatian director Dalibor Matanik, uses a carefree group of young adults cavorting on a summer day to examine the side effects of war. Paolo Sassanelli sets “War” in southern Italy just after World War II and tells a story he calls a poem from his grandfather’s life.

The 10 finalist shorts were chosen out of 440 entries from 43 countries. Each filmgoer who sees them Friday or Saturday night will get a voting card to check off their favorite short. Chosen by filmgoers in cities ranging from Armenia and Angola to Saudi Arabia and Singapore as well as the Vineyard, the winning short will be announced Sunday night, October 3, at 10 pm.

Screening: Manhattan Short Film Festival, Friday, Sept. 24, Saturday, Sept.25, 7:30 pm, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. $10; $7 M.V. Film Society members. Doors open at 7 pm. For more information, visit

Brooks Robards, a frequent contributor to The Times, divides her time between Oak Bluffs and Northampton.