By Jacoby Bancroft
An effective short film strips an idea down to its core, cutting away fluff and filler until nothing but the bare essentials remain. A short film can be more difficult to make than a feature length movie because in order for it to be successful, it needs to do everything a normal movie does, in a fraction of the time.
On Sunday, the Joe Crowley Student Union played host to The Manhattan Short Film Festival, an international event pitting 10 short films from around the world against one another. Manhattan Short touts itself as the world’s first and only global film festival, with the intent of giving the audience as big of a voice as possible.
From Sept. 26-Oct. 5, screenings of the short films will span six continents and give tens of thousands of movie lovers the opportunity to be a part of the voting process that decides the overall winner, which will be announced on Oct. 6 on the festival’s website.
Out of 589 entries from 47 countries, 10 short films were chosen to actually compete in the festival. Some were quirky and light-hearted, others depressing and intense, and a few films decided artistic flair was more important than a cohesive plot.
Interestingly, one of the more modest films in terms of style and effects was by far the best. English filmmaker Sameer Patel’s “On the Bridge” focused on two men who met on a bridge and discussed whether or not to jump off. Their simple conversation became much deeper as the men explore the idea of what it takes to be a man and how difficult it is to find one’s inner courage. Sometimes, the best conflicts arise when two characters with different mindsets just speak about how they view the world, and Patel captured that special magic all in a 12-minute film.
Not all the films match the brilliance of “On the Bridge.” Australian filmmaker James Croke’s “Shift” takes an interesting concept—a genius creates a device that allows him to teleport through walls in order to rob a bank—and drowns it in the same, tired story we see in every superhero flick. Man creates incredible device that gives him great power. Man abuses said power. Man pays the ultimate price.
Other lackluster examples include “97%,” a film from the Netherlands that had the potential to be charming, but its premise about a man tracking down a potential love interest based on a smartphone app ultimately plays too much like an extended AT&T commercial.
A few of the films had great cinematic style, but stumbled when it came to plot and character development. Norwegian filmmaker Andrea Thaulow’s “The Fall,” about a couple rock climbing in the mountains, had absolutely stunning mountain scenery paired with fancy camera work that wrings a lot of tension out of an unoriginal conflict between the two lead characters. That said, it did end on a literal cliffhanger which was quite clever and left the audience gasping.
The saving grace for French film “On/Off” was its visuals. Set in space, the film looked like “Gravity” meets an acid trip, which would be more interesting if the plot did not drag in the middle, an impressive feat, given that it is only 14 minutes long.
“The Bravest, The Boldest” was the most polarizing of the films. It told the story of a mother avoiding two army officers who have come to deliver devastating news about her son. The film was all over the place, switching back and forth between heartbreak and hilarity. Although funny, it never veered into truly comedic territory. Instead it found humor out of natural and human situations.
The Manhattan Short Film Festival proved how the appreciation of filmmaking can be universal. Most of the films were made by people from different cultures who spoke different languages, but made films with a message that could reach audiences everywhere. They varied from everything ranging from theme to quality to visual aesthetics, but put together, the films represented a wide base that made the event extremely enjoyable and allowed for traditional moviegoers to be a part of something much more.
Jacoby Bancroft can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.