by Mike Sharkey
To say the Manhattan Film Festival has grown during its first decade is kind of like saying the national debt represents a minor IOU.
Consider: it was started by Nicholas Mason 11 years ago who stopped on the side of Mulberry Street in Downtown New York City and played a handful of short films on the side of a truck. In 2004, the festival played out in seven cities in seven states. A year later, it grew to 72 venues in 35 states, including Jacksonville. Next week, the festival will play out in 114 cities across four continents in 295 venues.
And, Mason isn’t done.
“Next year, we are looking at Asia and the Middle East and Africa in 2010,” said Mason, who moved to New York from his native Australia 14 years ago. “In 2011, we are looking at Antarctica.”
The first few years in Jacksonville, the festival enjoyed a home at Shands Jacksonville. While Shands still has a major role, for the 12 films that made the cut from 429 entries from 42 countries the venue will be the Terry Theatre in the Times-Union Center.
Erin Vanwey, director of marketing for Shands Jacksonville, said the hospital got involved originally thanks to the work of the Springfield Women’s Club and the hospital’s desire to be active in the Springfield community. That attitude is prevalent today.
“We have been working with different Springfield groups helping with various initiatives in the community,” said Vanwey, adding the hospital helps promote the festival by encouraging its employees to attend.
The dozen films — all 16 minutes or shorter — come from 10 different countries. Three are exactly 16 minutes long while the shortest — “Viva Sunita” from India — is only 3 minutes long.
Mason said after the second year of his festival, he was determined to make it a worldwide event.
“When I watched all the films I got a sense they all summed up what was happening in the world,” he said. “I wondered how I could get the world involved. The next year, we did a live broadcast and it was horrendous, embarrassing.”
Over the years, the film festival has been judged by the likes of Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and others. While many of the films have faded away, others were nominated for Oscars in their respective category.
Mason said Jacksonville was an instant hit.
“It keeps growing in Jacksonville and that’s pivotal,” he said. “Jacksonville gets it. They make an event of it. It’s the community of Jacksonville coming together and they get to share the festival with the communities in London, Melbourne and all the others doing the same.
“It just keeps growing and it has become part of Jacksonville’s annual calendar.”
The Manhattan Film Festival is Sept. 25 at the Terry Theatre. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are $12 at the box office. For more, visit the festival’s Web site at www.manhattanshort.com.
What you’ll see
The following are the titles, length, nation of origin and brief description of the 12 films at this year’s Manhattan Film Festival.
United Kingdom, 16 minutes, director: Paul Gowers
One small random act of malice forces an ordinary man off the safe road and on to a dark journey he’ll never forget.
“Ode Ober” (The Waiter)
The Netherlands, 11 minutes director: Hiba Vink
The waiter has been supplying perfect strangers with food and drinks for as long as he can remember. His murmured maelstrom of acute observations reveals an acquired omniscience regarding his clients’ preferences and character traits. One day, something makes him ponder the concept of life beyond the doors of the restaurant.
United States, 13 minutes, director: Chris King
After a suburban couple finally meets the pregnant young woman whose baby they are adopting, they are left with haunting and unforgettable memories of her forever. Based on a powerful true story that made national headlines in the U.S.
“Teat Beat of Sex”
United State, 7 minutes, 30 seconds, story and animation: Signe Baumane
A take on first kiss, first make out session, first jealousy, first sex exclusively from a girl’s point of view.
Israel, 10 minutes, director: Amit Gicelter
Jerusalem 1929, set against the backdrop of one of the harshest Arab attacks on the Jews in British Mandatory Palestine.
Ireland, 11 minutes, 5 seconds, director: Steph Green
The only thing harder than Joseph’s first day of school in Ireland was his last day of school in Africa.
United Kingdom, 16 minutes, director: Susan Everette
Grieving the death of her adoptive mother, Alison tries to track down her natural mother to find a replacement ‘mum’. She sends out a videotape as an introduction. But are her intentions what they seem?
“Make My Day”
Denmark, 8 minutes, director: Pelle Moeller
A Man arrives in the emergency hall with his son who has sprained his ankle in school. The father has always told the boy to never let anyone put you down, and what would “Clint” do in such a situation. However, when the attending doctor turns out to be one of those that bullied his father back in his school days, the kid takes matters into his own hands.
New Zealand, 8 minutes, 30 seconds, director: John Cohen-Du Four
The Game explores human fate by observing another, hidden level of existence — a place where decisions about life and death are literally played out on a strange game board. Two middle-aged men, Monty and Lazlo, face off in this dark watery underworld, in a surreal match neither can afford to lose.
Australia, 8 minutes, director: Mark Alston
A true to life drama set on a farm in Australia.
India, 3 minutes, director: Bob & Lola
Late at night a man stops under the window of someone’s apartment and calls her name. No one responds from above. A motley group of helpful people slowly gather and expand the chorus, calling her name... When no one responds to this collective ruckus, everything changes...
“The Golden Thread”
India, 16 minutes, director: Diego Sanchidrián Rubio
Sometimes, mystifying bonds are set up between people. Bonds which overcome distance, oblivion and unawareness. And when those bonds are created, they can become what we need to survive.