Short on time, not quality

Manhattan Short Film Festival celebrates 18 years

Bear Story

“Bear Story” (image copyright Punkrobot Studio)

Exclusive to MeierMovies.com, September 24, 2015

The 18th annual Manhattan Short Film Festival will screen 10 short films from around the world Sept. 25 through Oct. 4.

Unique among festivals, the event is based in New York City but screens at more than 250 theaters on six continents, allowing audiences to watch the shorts and vote for their favorites. The winning film and actor will be announced on Oct. 4. This year’s films were picked from 678 entries from 52 countries.

For general information about the festival, see www.manhattanshort.com/info.html. If, like me, you’re in Central Florida, you can catch the films at the Enzian Theater in Maitland on Sept. 28 at 6:30 p.m. visit www.enzian.org/film/manhattan-short-2015 for information about that screening, a short description of each movie and to purchase tickets.

The films in order of presentation:

  1. Listen, from Finland and Denmark, 12 minutes, directed by Hamy Ramezan and Rungano Nyoni
  2. Dad in Mum, France, 6 minutes, directed by Fabrice Bracq
  3. Bear Story, Chile, 10 minutes, directed by Gabriel Osorio
  4. Forever Over, Germany, 13 minutes, directed by Erik Schmitt
  5. Shok, Kosovo/United Kingdom, 21 minutes, directed by Jamie Donoughue
  6. Au Sol (Grounded), France, 19 minutes, directed by Alexis Mikhalik
  7. Sundown, Turkey, 15 minutes, directed by Sinem Cezayirli
  8. Patch, Switzerland/Germany, 3 minutes, directed by Gerd Gockell
  9. El Camino Solo (The Lonely Road), United States, 12 minutes, directed by Shawn Telford
  10. Bis Gleich (Until Then), Germany, 15 minutes, directed by Benjamin Wolff

The films in order of quality, from worst to best:

10. Sadly, the only film in the bunch that doesn’t quite succeed artistically or emotionally is the American entry, El Camino Solo, or The Lonely Road (2 stars on my 0-5 scale). “We’re all on the lonely road, but we’re not alone,” says the film’s director. But his film does little to convey that thought, as it’s the most pedestrian and least imaginative of the group, and is hampered by a mediocre lead performance.

9. Patch (3 stars), a slightly experimental stop-motion piece, is brief and slight but nevertheless an intriguing and refreshing break from the more mainstream offerings.

8. Sundown (3 stars), too, feels slight, but it succeeds – as only a short can do – because of its simplicity. Depicting just one woman’s reaction to sudden tragedy, the film paints the universal themes of family and death with a hyper-realistic brush.

Grounded

Stéphanie Caillol in “Au Sol,” or “Grounded” (image copyright FullDawa Films / Mon Voisin Productions)

7. Dad in Mum (3 stars) is a uniquely comedic and beautifully innocent examination of two kids’ reaction to, well, you’ll just have to see the film. Vive le cinema Francais!

6. Opening the festival is Listen (3 stars), about an abused Muslim woman struggling to convey her story to police. It’s a thoughtful examination of the complexities of human perception and language. For me, it never quite closes the emotional deal, if you will, though I did find parts of it intriguing, especially the scenic repetitions, inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, among other experimental films.

5. Forever Over (4 stars) is a creative and innovative cinematic warning – both negative and positive – that you should always be careful what you wish for.

4. Closing the fest is Bis Gleich, or Until Then (4 stars), which starts slowly but builds to a magical and heartfelt conclusion. An emotional story of two elderly neighbors who build a distant but meaningful relationship under unusual circumstances, the German production is an appropriate conclusion to the best Manhattan Short Film Festival in at least three years.

3. Shok (4 stars) is the most dramatically ambitious offering. Shown through the eyes of a child now grown, the film provides a unique glimpse at the ethnic cleansing during the Kosovo War in the 1990s.

2. Au Sol, or Grounded (4 stars), proves that the simplest story can carry the most powerful message. With a great performance by its two leads (especially Stéphanie Caillol, my choice for the festival’s best actor), the French film is about the importance of human respect and dignity in our increasingly cynical and impersonal world.

1. From Chile, Bear Story (5 stars) is a digitally animated tale of an anthropomorphic bear passing on his story of struggle in a breathtakingly unique way. Mesmerizingly beautiful, it’s the most moving and visually arresting animated short film I’ve seen so far this year. Look for it come Oscar time.

Copyright 2015 © Cameron Meier