We all relish those times when we’re reminded of what film is really capable of, but how often does that actually happen? For all the megabucks, airbrushed stars and frequently vapid, slick surfaces, it’s a thrill to observe filmmakers really testing the boundaries of narrative cinema especially when the length of the reel barely exceeds that of your average action sequence.
Yes, it’s time once again for The Manhattan Short Film Festival, playing out across six continents and 200 cities from September 23to October 2. Founded by Nicholas Mason, it’s a film festival with a difference, because the voters are the viewers; and its aim is to unite audiences from all over the world through the power of cinema. Each film is 18 minutes or less in length and the festival demonstrates the fascinating breadth of different cultures scattered around the world.
On viewing the 10 films that have made the final shortlist (this year culled from a staggering 598 entries, taken from 48 countries around the world), each member of the audience is asked to vote for their favourite. The results are then compiled before the winner is announced online at www.manhattanshort.com on Sunday, October 2.
The Manhattan Short Film Festival continues to fly the flag for those who view film as more than just a way to top up a studio’s bank balance, and as a film critic, it’s a privilege to announce that one of the venues which broadcasts the festival is located on my doorstep in Torquay. That place is The Blue Walnut CafÃ© in Chelston.
The Blue Walnut has the great honour of being one of only three venues in the UK to screen the festival, auspicious prestige for a sleepy coastal town where the arts are often left floundering in a sea of hotels, tourists and arcades. A multiplex this isn’t. Instead, the charming cinema at the rear of the building (remnants of an old Nickolodeon) boasts a unique, peaceful identity all of its own, complete with 23 tiered seats, Dolby Digital Surround Sound and Widescreen. And it’s not just films: food and drink is available in the cafe looking onto sleepy Walnut Road, and there are regular art and live music events.
The Blue Walnut’s low key commitment to artistic integrity is borne out in the hard work of the festival itself, one which showcases a similar sense of dedication, but to cinema itself as an art form that can bridge continents, cultures, languages and sensibilities. Such principles are easy to overlook nowadays, especially when there’s a multi-screen behemoth around the corner -but they’re worth making the extra effort to seek out.
And now people in and around Torbay have the chance to take part in this extraordinary festival at The Blue Walnut CafÃ©. All across the world, people will be voting for their favourite short, from Kathmandu, Nepal to Perth, Australia; St Petersburg, Russia to Buenos Aires, Argentina. And you too can be a part of it.
Showtimes for The Manhattan Short Film Festival at The Blue Walnut
Monday to Friday: 7.30pm, doors open at 7pm.
Saturday and Sunday: 3pm and 7.30pm, doors open 30 minutes before each show
This year’s finalists
Incident By A Bank (Ruben Ostlund): Sweden (9:30)
A wryly comic glimpse at an amateurish bank robbery gone wrong
DIK: (Christopher Stollery): Australia (10:00)
A child’s school drawing leads to sexual confusion and paranoia between his parents
Mak (Geraldine Zosso): Switzerland (18:00)
The story of Ilinka, a girl living in Switzerland who has just given birth to a baby boy
I Love Luci (Colin Kennedy): Scotland (11.00)
After a heavy night, a girl’s day gets worse when she loses her false teeth, followed by her dog and bicycle
The Legend of Beaver Dam (Jerome Sable): Canada (12:00)
A spin on urban legends and campfire stories, when a group of kids and their leader resurrect the spirit of Stumpy Sam
Sexting: (Neil LaBute) USA (8:00)
The girlfriend of a married man agrees to meet his jilted wife
The Forest (GyÃ¶rgy MÃ³r) Hungary (12:00)
A man is witness to a murder in the middle of a Hungarian forest
A Doctors Job (Julio Ramos) Peru (10:30)
Ramon Moran is a doctor and also a taxi driver; both careers come in handy when his day takes an unexpected turn
David & Goliath (George Zaverdas) USA (12:00)
The extraordinary true story of a man hiding from the Nazi’s in World War II, and the dog who refused to give him away
Martyr Friday (Abu Bakr Shawky) Egypt (10:00)
A ground-level documentary view of the February uprising in Eygpt, which ultimately led to Hosni Mubarak being ousted as President