The Manhattan Short Film Festival, now in its 25th year, has arrived and is ready for the Island’s audience to pick their favorite films and actors. The 10 finalists come from eight different countries and will screen simultaneously over a one-week period: Sept. 22 to Oct. 2. They include shorts from Scotland, Chechia-Slovakia, Spain, Australia, Finland, and Lebanon, as well as two each from the U.S. and France. Manhattan Short is a unique event, the only one of its kind, and each of the finalists automatically qualifies for the 2023 Oscars. Audiences from around the world as well as from Martha’s Vineyard will watch the 10, then vote on their favorite film and favorite actor. The winners will be announced on Monday, Oct. 3.
From Scotland comes “Don vs. Lightning,” a story about a man struck by lightning multiple times, including once when he’s in a boat. From Chechia-Slovakia comes “Love, Dad” a story told in the form of letters from daughter to father. The U.S. has submitted “Save the Bees,” describing the misadventures of a young man and his girlfriend, and “Fetish,” about discrimination against Asians. Australia-France offers “Freedom Swimmer,” a tale about a harrowing escape from China. From Spain comes “The Treatment,” the hilarious story of a bald man seeking to have his hair restored.
Entries from France include “Freefall,” concerning stunned stockbrokers on the day of the Twin Towers debacle, as well as “The Big Green,” describing a woman stuck up a tree. From Finland “The Blanket” tells the heart-wrenching story of a girl trudging across a snow-filled plain to seek milk for her mother’s baby. Lebanon’s documentary finalist is “Warsha,” about a man who finds himself crossing his death-defying way on a sky-high crane. These 10 finalists have been chosen from among 868 submissions from 70 countries. Filmmakers had until midnight July 31 to submit their entries.
The story of Manhattan Short began on Sept. 28, 1998, when founding director Nicholas Mason attached a screen to the side of a truck on Mulberry Street in New York City. Three hundred New Yorkers gathered downtown and watched 16 shorts. From there, the event moved to Union Square Park with a series of celebrity judges who picked the finalists. The judges included Susan Sarandon, Eric Stoltz, Laura Linney, Roger Corman, and Tim Robbins, as well as others.
After the debacle of 9/11/2001, Manhattan Short, which had been scheduled for Sept. 23, was encouraged to continue. Washington Park became a place for people to mourn the loss of loved ones. That year Manhattan Short was recognized around the world. The following year, the number of entries rose to 500, and the films became more revealing about what happened after 9/11.
By 2004, seven films were shown in one week in seven cities. By the next year, Manhattan Short grew to 72 locations in 32 U.S. states. That same year, the public replaced celebrities, and they determined the winners. In 2006, 20 European sites joined the event, as well as South America, Australia, and Asia by 2010. When Africa was added, it became the first global film festival.
Now Manhattan Short has grown to 400 locations in six continents from its start in 1998. It has become “The World’s most people-powered Film Festival.”