One world, one week, one festival
Abbey screens 11th annual Manhattan Short Film Festival

“Teat Beat of Sex,” a quirky U.S. animation about mating habits.

by Judith Reynolds

So, what do you think? You’re being asked to view 12 short films and choose your favorite. Thursday night, Sept. 25, film lovers on four continents will be doing the same thing. It’s through the gift of technology that our burg is one of 115 cities chosen to screen this year’s crop of top short films in the 11th annual Manhattan Short Film Festival.

When you go to the Abbey Theatre, you’ll be handed a voting card. At the end of the screening, all you have to do is vote for your favorite. The votes will be tallied on site and the totals will be sent electronically to headquarters in Manhattan. By Sunday night, Sept. 28, after the globe finishes spinning on all participating venues, the top vote-getter will be announced – electronically.

There were 429 entries from 42 countries, winnowed down to the final 12 that you’ll see. Here’s what you’ll see in the order screened:

Ripple, directed by Paul Gowers, United Kingdom. As the title suggests, the film starts out simply and every action has consequences. The ripple effect takes strange turns for a young everyman on his way to meet his girlfriend. Loosely based on an incident that happened to writer-director Gowers, the black comedy may feature a short trek from Newcastle to London, but it’s full of the unexpected.

The Waiter, directed by Hiba Vink, The Netherlands. If you’ve ever waited tables, this film will have particular resonance for you. Director Vink views the life of a restaurant from the employee side, focusing on an elderly waiter who is observant and can de-escalate a family squabble with ease. The real mystery is who the waiter is and what happens to him after work.

Teat Beat of Sex, animated film directed by Signe Baumane, USA. This quirky animation about mating habits among so-called human beings has several short chapters interspersed throughout the festival. Director Baumane reads the voice-over narration, a quizzical young woman eager to learn about the opposite sex.

Rachel, directed by Chris King, USA. The pro-life movement has spawned many responses in film, short stories and novels. Director King latches onto one aspect of the dance between a married couple desperate for children and an unmarried mother, Rachel, desperate to find a good home for her baby.

Sour Milk, directed by Amit Gicelter, Israel. This flashback story of a Jewish child almost miraculously saved from certain death is based on true events. Haya, the director’s mother as portrayed by a young girl in the film, was saved from Palestinian rioters during the British occupation of the late ’30s. Her rescuer, Halil, was a simple Arab spice merchant. In 10 minutes, this harrowing story is told with precision and suspense.

New Boy, directed by Stephanie Green, Ireland. This short “fitting in” story of an immigrant boy arriving at a Dublin elementary school will make many people squirm. Most of us have been the new kid in school, and we know the terror. Based on a Roddy Doyle story, “New Boy” has the feel of a documentary, but its structure is what fiction does best – giving dramatic shape to human drama. What’s surprising to learn is that this portrait of today’s Irish schools instigated protests from parents and bureaucrats.

“Sour Milk,” the semi-biographical tale of a Jewish girl saved from Palestinian rioters in the 1930s.

The Golden Thread, directed by Diego Sanchidrián Rubio, Spain. Divorce, Spanish style, this film starts out with a marriage going sour. An unhappy wife and a preoccupied husband appear to have an empty marriage. Then strange things begin to happen and the wife senses a connection with another woman.

Mother Mine, directed by Susan Everette, United Kingdom. What is it with adoption in the 21st century? Like “Rachel,” “Mother Mine” takes a dark view of baby trading. Here a young woman called Allison searches for her birth mother and apparently finds her. All innocence in search of connection, Allison learns her mother is touched but doesn’t want to absorb the girl into her life. Be prepared for an unusual ending.

Make My Day, directed by Pelle Moeller, Denmark. The title gives away a tribute to Clint Eastwood and frames the question: What does it mean to be a man in our society? This is a poignant father-son drama centered on a trip to the hospital. The boy (Mathias Larsen) has been bullied and ran off only to injure himself. The father (Jacob Welle) accompanies the boy to treatment and encounters an old school chum, now a doctor. In a tense and economical scene, the two men revisit their own childhood battleground.

The Game, directed by John Cohen-DuFour, New Zealand. In this surrealist film, two men descend into a dungeon, undress, and play a strange board game. The sound of water, dripping, running, rushing, permeates the sound track. And they are not alone. Other players concentrate on what looks like a spooky chess tournament.

Change Coming, director Mark Alston, Australia. Another marriage apparently on the rocks. But this one isn’t in trendy urban Spain. Here a desperate ranch family is on the verge of collapse. Devastating drought caused by climate change has put this young Australian family on the edge. What director Alston captures is how it feels to be in such desperate straights.

Viva Sunita, directed by Bob and Lola, India. Based on a short story by Italo Calvino, this tiny film provides a welcome spritz of humor. What happens when one man calls “Sunita” over and over again, Cyrano-like, under a balcony. One possibility is that others join him, and that’s the charming mystery of this brief, sparkling gem.

My advice: go, see these films from all over the world, take a chance and vote for the one that’s your favorite of the evening. Then mull it over throughout the week and see which one, or two, or three, just can’t let you alone.

Worldwide winners will be posted on the festival website, www.Manhattan, on Sept. 28. •



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