Despite its name, the annual Manhattan Short Film Festival is neither held (exclusively) in the Big Apple nor limited to the city’s filmmakers. Instead, it’s nothing if not international: From 520 entries received from 49 nations, the judges have selected 10 films, each 18 minutes or less. The finalists will be screened starting this Friday in 300 cities around the globe — including Burlington and (for one night only) Middlebury. After each screening, popular democracy kicks in, as viewers receive ballots to vote for their choice of top film. The results of the global vote will be announced on Sunday, October 7, on manhattanshort.com.
This year’s selection is diverse and lively, with several films combining live action, digital animation and other stylized elements in inventive ways. “A Curious Conjunction of Coincidences,” from the Netherlands, for instance, tells a tall tale that spans several centuries just by changing the actors’ costumes and backgrounds. “Voice Over,” from Spain, goes meta with a “Choose Your Own Adventure”-style narrative — except that all the choices lead to the protagonist’s comically gruesome demise.
Other shorts are lower tech and more earnest, such as “Behind the Mirrors,” a mini-thriller from Peru set in a brothel; and “Two & Two,” a chilling parable about miseducation from the UK. A few films milk their concepts too hard: “Cluck,” an Irish short about a “chicken boy” sent to an orphanage, drags on. For my money, the fest’s most memorable entry is “Where the Sea Flows,” a dark, poetic, sometimes enigmatic Russian drama in which Oksana Akinshina (Lilya 4-Ever) plays a mother with mixed feelings about her young daughter.
Judge the finalists yourself this week at Merrill’s Roxy, and next Saturday at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater.
Manhattan Short Film Festival. Friday, September 28, through Thursday, October 4, at Merrill’s Roxy Cinemas in Burlington. Regular admission. Saturday, October 6, 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall Theater in Middlebury. $12; $8 for students. townhalltheater.org