By Bobby Tuzzio, Chief Eggplant Editor, Culture Staff Writer
During the weeks of Sept. 28 to Oct. 8, MANHATTAN SHORT will host over 100,000 film lovers gathered in cinemas, universities, museums, and libraries on six continents to view and vote on the ten finalists in the 20th Annual MANHATTAN SHORT Film Festival. This year, MANHATTAN SHORT received 1,615 entries from 75 countries from which 10 finalists were selected.
I recently attended a screening of the films in downtown Worcester and each of them was quite different from the other. Some were funny, some were horrifying, some were upbeat, and some were downright depressing.
The first film was “Do No Harm,” a New Zealand project directed by Rosanne Liang. The film is about a single-minded surgeon who is forced to break her physician’s oath when violent gangsters storm into a hospital to stop a crucial operation. The film is excessively violent; it felt like I was watching a Quentin Tarantino movie, such as “Kill Bill.” What was really cool about this movie was that it had a great deal of emotional depth. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I will say that it caught me by surprise. This one is definitely worth a watch.
The second film and my personal favorite was “Behind,” a Spanish film directed by Angel Gomez Hernandez. It’s about a divorced mother who is obsessed with the notion that her ex-husband is plotting to take her baby away from her. It kind of reminded me of a Darren Aronofsky film in that it had a lot of elements of a psychological surrealist horror film. It was one of the most terrifying 15 minutes I’ve ever experienced. The suspense keeps you on the edge of your seat until the final frame. It also has one of the most effective jump scares I’ve ever witnessed. This one is definitely worth a watch.
The third film and the only American film selected was “Fickle Bickle,” directed by Stephen Ward. It’s about a plumber who is left alone in a magnificent mansion after the the forgetful owner goes on vacation. While in the house, he calls a high school crush who he knows is a gold-digger and invites her over to have lunch. The whole idea is that Kevin, the plumber, gets a girl that he never had. While this movie may come across as a romantic comedy, it has a very darkly comedic ending that was funny, but kind of messed up.
“Hope Dies Last,” a British film directed by Ben Price, is probably my second-favorite film. It’s about a Holocaust prisoner during World War II who cuts hair for Rudolf Hoss, the camp commander. The barber is always worried that if he makes a mistake, he will be killed. The close-up shots on each stroke of the razor blade delicately touching Hoss’ head are very suspenseful. It’s a very tense movie; I sat there praying that the barber would not make a mistake.
“Perfect Day” was another Spanish film. This one was directed by Ignacio Redondo. It’s about a businessman who has one of the most important days of his life, as he is about to close a large deal for a couple. However, nothing about his day goes as planned and the film turns into a comical view of everyday life.
The sixth film was “Just Go!,” a Latvian film directed by Pavel Gumennikov. It’s a triumph of the spirit movie about a young man who lost both his legs in a childhood accident. When the girl he loves is victimized by two robbers, the man comes to the rescue. This one could have been a little better but it wasn’t bad.
“Mare Nostrum” is a Syrian film that was co-directed by Rana Kazkaz and Anas Khalaf. It’s a very heart-wrenching film about a father who wants his daughter to have a better life, so he throws her into the Mediterranean Sea even though she cannot swim. The film is really about the Syrian refugee crisis and I think it’s a very well-made film. The father was portrayed very well. He gave a very convincing performance. I thought he was the best actor out of all the actors I saw that day.
“Viola Franca,” an Italian film directed by Marta Savina, is about a young woman in Sicily during the mid-1960s, who, after being raped, is forced to marry the rapist to avoid becoming a pariah in her traditionalist community. However, she rebels against the established custom. This one was really good; it had a very old-looking feel to it. I highly recommend seeing this.
Possibly the strangest one was “In a Nutshell,” a film from Switzerland directed by Fabio Friedli. It’s basically a five-minute stop-motion film of various images that are connected to one another. I actually very much enjoyed this one. I thought it was very creative and I could understand how long and strenuous it was for the people who made this movie.
Finally, “8 Minutes,” a film from Georgian director Gega Khmaladze, is a film about an aging magician who realizes one last feat of magic is required of him before the end of the world. The less I say about this one, the better. You have to see it to appreciate it.
If you have the chance to see any of these films, I would recommend that you go ahead and see them. They’re each original and the short run times kept me guessing what twist would happen at the end of each of them.