Wednesday, May 22, 2013
By DENNIS PERKINS
Sure, it's called the Manhattan Short Film Festival, but this year, there's just a little bit of Maine involved.
On a perilous journey to the North Pole, an Arctic explorer makes a critical decision with lifelong consequences in “The Devil’s Ballroom.”
Courtesy of MSFF
A mother comes to grips with a precocious young daughter in “Where the Sea Flows.”
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
PAYSON-SMITH HALL (USM), Portland
Thursday: "Fixing the Future." USM's Sociology Department and Hour Exchange Portland present a free screening of this 2010 documentary about finding local, sustainable job opportunities in the wake of the global financial crisis. Buy Local!
NICKELODEON CINEMA, Portland
Thursday: "40 West." Remember a while ago when I called Dana Packard and Jennifer Porter's "40 West" the best Maine-made feature I've ever seen? Well, I haven't changed my mind. Come on out to an encore screening of this intense, gripping thriller at the Nick, and maybe pick up a copy now that it's on DVD!
Begun in 1998 by Nicholas Mason, the Manhattan Short Film Festival (or as it's now known, Manhattan Short) has grown to become one of the largest and most respected short film festivals in the world, with its annual week of worldwide coordinated screenings reaching 100,000 people in 300 cities on six continents (sorry, Antarctica).
From this year's crop of 520 submitted shorts from around the globe, festival organizers have whittled down their final roster to just 10 films, and choosing the winning film each year (an honor that often fast-tracks its way to an Oscar nomination) is invariably difficult.
And up to you.
That's if you head up to Lewiston on Friday, Saturday or Sunday for the Public Theatre's screenings of this year's Manhattan Short program, because each year, the festival's Best Picture is chosen by polling the audience. That's right -- you watch the films, you fill out the ballot, and your choice is tallied along with those of every other international viewer to determine who gets the prize.
For Thomas Platz, the Public Theatre's treasurer of the board of directors, that's a huge draw. "(Manhattan Short) was at Space Gallery in Portland last year," Platz said, "But (Mason) was looking for a larger venue, and we seat about 300. I called him, and he was thrilled."
So is Platz and the rest of the Public Theatre, an equity theatrical playhouse that mounts a half-dozen professional plays per year (see its schedule at thepublictheatre.org) but, this weekend aside, rarely does movies.
As Platz explains, "We normally don't do films, but we see ourselves as an integral part of the arts in this community, and this type of venue is something we can do -- even when building sets at the same time. Manhattan Short gets amazing films from all around the world, and pares them down to the very best."
Judging from Manhattan Short's track record and the stunning trailer for this year's lineup (manhattanshort.com/trailer.html), the 90-minute program (with films from Russia, Norway, Ireland, Spain, the U.S. and more) should offer something for everyone. Tickets are $10 ($7 for students).
Once again, Portland film fanatics, it's time to hop in the car and head north. You might help a deserving film make some history.
Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.