The 24th annual Manhattan Short Film Festival begins today, Thursday, Sept. 23, and runs through Sunday, Oct. 3. In this festival, not only do audiences across the world pick their favorite short out of 10 finalists; they also have the chance to pick their favorite actor.
This year the Manhattan Short Films received 970 entries from 70 different countries across six continents. Director Nicholas Mason founded the festival in 1998 with 16 films and an audience of about 300. The festival has since grown to its present size, and added worldwide audiences. The winners will be announced by Mason on Monday, Oct. 4.
The director of each film introduces it. “Death by Handshake,” the American entry, has a director who at 16 was probably the youngest when he started making the film. Beginning at the start of COVID-19, it’s a celebration of New York, its closeness and sense of sharing, with still shots of the city.
The next two films may be familiar to viewers, since they were screened earlier this month at the M.V. International Film Festival. Directed by Torfinn Iversen, “The Kicksled Choir” is a Norwegian finalist, which premiered at the Berlin Film Film Festival and was shortlisted for a 2021 Oscar. The story describes a boy who wants to join the choir at his school. But his father is resistant and hostile, and when the chorus, consisting of refugees, comes to the family house for an a cappella concert, his father gets in an altercation with one of them and tosses him into a river. The boy thinks the refugee has died, but that’s not the case. The father is won over, and donates some clothes to the refugees. This simple story is beautifully carried by the boy and the emotions shown on his face.
The other short that screened at the International Film Festival is called “Monsieur Cachemire.” It is directed by Iouri Philippe Paillé, and comes from Quebec. The audience is introduced first to a banker eating his lunch at his desk. A man dressed in a rancher’s outfit shows up asking for a loan, and in the conversation that ensues, persuades the banker to give him the loan, but there’s a surprising end to this comic short.
From the United Kingdom comes “Ganef,” which means thief in Yiddish. A little girl named Ruthie (Izabella Dziewanska) is the central figure in this short directed by Mark Rosenblatt. She has a housekeeper, Lynn (Sophie McShera), to play with, until she sees the woman pocket a silver dish. She tells her mother, who is resting, and she confronts the housekeeper. It turns out that Lynn has returned the dish, much to Ruthie’s distress, in this tale about the way Holocaust survivors pass on their wounds. Dziewanska is a finalist for best actor.
Directed by Afghan Salar Pashtoonyar, “Bad Omen” describes the grim life of an Afghan widow with two children. The viewer sees Pari, played by Fereshta Afshar, send her daughter and reluctant son to school. The son’s reluctance is a bit of a MacGuffin, or misleading plot device, since the short focuses on Pari, who makes her living as a seamstress but needs glasses that she can’t afford.
From Northern Ireland comes “Rough,” directed by Adam Patterson and Declan Lawn. In this short, two men wait to be confronted by two cruel Belfast gangsters who plan to execute a small dog for apparently killing a cat. Actor Ryan McPartland plays Mucker, who owns the dog and offers to die in the animal’s place.
The French short, “Archibald’s Syndrome,” is directed by Daniel Perez. Archibald, played by Tom Hudson, has a strange and comic faculty. Anyone near him is forced to repeat his gestures. He forces Indiana (Jade Hênot) to help him escape after an attempted bank robbery. It turns out that she is not affected by his gestures, and the fun begins.
Nicola Piovesan has made the tragic and haunting Italian short, “Closed to the Light,” set in Lombardy during World War II. The fascists have conscripted youths barely out of boyhood for reprisal against civilians. What is remarkable about this film is that it pans and reverses through a series of stills, showing the youths and the people they shoot. “Closed to the Light” uses the capacity of stills to make a statement about the cruelty of war.
The French short, “Out of Time,” about an aspiring dancer, is directed by Delphine Montaigne. Threatened with expulsion from the class, Felix (Nadi Benlala), a teenager, awakens an elderly woman with his dance moves. Montaigne has worked mainly as an actress, and her insights play into this short.
Finally, the one animated U.S. short, “Aurora,” concerns a little girl who falls in love with a horse. She is heartbroken when the horse is sold and taken away. Jo Meuris, the director, originally began to develop the story 25 years ago. When it came time to make it, she decided it wasn’t simply a story for little girls but had universal appeal about the consequences of loving.
For more information on the Manhattan Short Film Festival, hosted by the M.V. Film Society, visit mvfilmsociety.com.