I'll Take Manhattan 

Film festival lets audience judge entries

Film festivals, unlike hunting or those fur-lined mukluks in the closet, know no season. From Cannes to Toronto to Sundance, there seem to be festivals celebrating all manner of films happening throughout the year. While Boise may not be considered a center of the cinema universe, it does get its share of festivals, and another one is making its way to the Treasure Valley.

Guess who's judging it? You are.

Or, more accurately, you can. The Manhattan Short Film Festival is a roving spectacle of film, a nine-day plunge through 31 states where an international selection of short films will be shown to the viewing public. The tour, which runs September 16-24, finishes up with a grand finale showing on September 25 in New York City, making a stop in the City of Trees September 18 at the Flicks. Except for stops in Seattle and Olympia, Washington, at the end of the tour, Boise is the only Northwest stop for the festival. Next year's schedule promises to be even more ambitious; the festival's organizers plan to expand the voting process to encompass Canada, the U.K., Ireland, Israel, Italy, Germany, Spain, France and Australia, all in a week's time.

Tickets are scheduled to go for $8 general admission; students can get in for $6. Those who attend will be handed a voting card and asked to vote on which film they thought was the best. The winning filmmaker will get the chance to direct a feature film that the festival hopes to distribute to the venues participating in this year's festival.

Good news for the attention-deficit: The festival promoters weren't kidding when they describe these films as short. None of the films featured run longer than 14 minutes; the entire program, including a 10-minute intermission, runs about 2½ hours, which covers 12 films in all.

If you're one of those film-goers who love to watch movies but hate to read subtitles, you'll find this year's film festival fairly inviting. Of the 12 films in competition (which were weeded down from 504 entries), six hail from the United Kingdom and Ireland, three come from Australia and one hails from the U.S., so the films should be light on subtitles. And, as a bonus for card-carrying members of the sci-fi/fantasy community, one of the Australian entries, Everything Goes, stars none other than Hugo Weaving, star of the Matrix films, Lord of the Rings and the upcoming V for Vendetta.

The 12 films to be shown at the festival are as follows:

A Black and White World (Australia): An homage to film stretching from the silent film era to modern-day film.

Cuco Gomez--Gomez is Dead! (U.S.): A black comedy with Latino flavoring about a murder. Don't leave before the end credits roll.

Crickets (Israel): A drama about a young man, reeling from his parents' death in a terrorist attack, who falls in with a group who finds solace from past traumas in an unusual manner. Some scenes included in the short were shot during an actual attack.

Gravity (England): Inspired by a Los Angeles incident, this film tells the story of a group of boys who discover a loaded pistol in a housing project near London.

Sister (Wales): Questions of family and urban vs. country life arise on a school bus in this entry from Wales.

The Ten Steps (Ireland): A horror story with a cell phone. Be sure to turn your phone off before viewing.

The Instructional Guide to Dating (Australia): Remember those '50s-era films on what to do in case of a nuclear attack? Take that approach and apply it to dating, and you get this instructional film from Down Under.

The Lump (Ireland): One of the actors in this film, shot in Cork, was discovered in a local pub. That should tell you everything.

The Banker (England): A British comedy about fertility clinics, the young men who donate to those clinics and the ... ahem, situations that can result.

The Natural Route (Spain): With a narrative nod to fractured chronology films such as Pulp Fiction and Memento, this film follows the life story of a man who has lost his memory.

Hibernation (England): A live-action story with a near-fairy-tale feel, this film tells of the efforts of a group of British children to cope with a playmate's terminal illness and keep their friend involved with the group.

Everything Goes (Australia): Having hung up his Agent Smith duds, Hugo Weaving plays a man who relates his negative experiences in marriage to a newlywed couple.

The festival will only be in Boise for one night, but the program will run twice, at 5 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m. For those film fanatics who grouse and gripe about some of the award choices made at those other film festivals, the Manhattan Short Film Festival presents the perfect opportunity to make a discerning voice heard.

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