Tuscaloosa joins the world in Manhattan film festivalBy Alex Cohen | 09/27/2011 12:31am
This week more than 100,000 people will unite to judge recent works of filmmakers from around the world. Audiences will gather in more than 200 cities, linking six continents as they cast their votes. Two of those venues are located in Alabama. One is less than two miles from campus.
Tonight, the Bama Theatre will host the 13th annual Manhattan Short Film Festival. The screening is the seventh installment of the Bama Art House Fall Film Series, which kicked off in mid August. General admission is $7, students and seniors pay $6, and Arts Council members pay $5. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show will start at 7:30. As the audience trickles into the theatre, they will also have the opportunity to view “Land of Oz,” a film highlighting Oz Music store by local filmmaker John Hannah.
The Manhattan Short Film Festival began in 1998 as a local festival in New York City. While it’s always had entries from around the world, strong international support did not come until 2001. News crews from Italy, England and Australia among other countries were in New York for weeks covering the tragedy of Sept. 11. During the Manhattan Short, which began 12 days after 9/11, those same crews found a chance to cover their nations’ own filmmakers. The press helped the festival to flourish.
“We were really in the right place at the wrong time,” said Nicholas Mason, founder and director of the Manhattan Short. “It snowballed from there.”
“Snowballed” may be an understatement. What began on one screen on the side of a truck in Manhattan’s Little Italy has grown to include over 800 screens across the globe. One aspect that helped spark the program’s popularity was that the audience voted for the winner. Before branching out to include audience voting in 2004, the Manhattan Short relied on actors, directors and other experts for opinions. Mason believes their current method of choosing the winner is more appropriate.
“The general public are the people that drive the industry—the people who pay to see the film,” Mason said. “They follow their favorite artists and project them to a higher plane.”
Tuscaloosa’s general public will join the world in viewing the 10 short films that have been labeled this year’s finalists. Chosen from a pool of 598 entries from 48 countries, the 10 finalists constitute what Mason calls “the next generation of filmmakers.” This praise is not a stretch. Past winners have gone on to receive Academy Award nominations, and one has won. Chris Wedge’s film “Bunny” won the Manhattan Short in 1998 and won the Oscar months later. Wedge built on his success, directing “Ice Age” and “Robots” in the years that followed. Both feature films were multi-million dollar endeavors.
After viewing the 10 shorts, each member of the audience at the Bama will be handed a ballot and asked to vote for the film he or she deems the best. Votes from hundreds of venues will be tallied, and the results will be posted online on Sunday, Oct. 2, at 10 p.m.
Mason said he’s particularly excited to see youth participation in the festival increase. Tuscaloosa is just one example of many college towns screening the films this week. Mason believes students are the right demographic to help further the cause of global unity.
“This festival is amazing because there are so many cultures and so many races judging it,” Mason said. “I’m glad students are a part of it—I don’t think we’re aware of how powerful college students can be.”
David Allgood, manager of the Bama Theatre, also feels students can benefit from the international occasion.
“Students will be able to give their input as they’re exposed to other cultures and means of expression,” Allgood said. “It’s an opportunity for anyone in the Tuscaloosa area to be part of a worldwide film community for one night.”
IF YOU GO
What: Manhattan Short Film Festival
When: Tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Bama Theatre
Cost: $6 for students