Manhattan Short brings global film to Yale

Ten films, 10 countries, in two hours. A recipe for teleportation? Maybe. The essence of the Manhattan Short Film Festival? Definitely.

Manhattan Short made its way to Yale’s Whitney Humanities Center for the second time in its 14-year history Friday night. Organized at Yale this year by film studies major Jason Douglass ’13, Manhattan Short has been taking place for the past week in 192 venues in 20 different countries — reaching its largest audience since its founding. Originally conceived in 1998 as a celebrity-judged New York event, the festival’s founder and director Nicholas Mason said he wanted to expand the festival’s presence globally after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“If the whole world can’t come together and just judge 10 short films for one week in the year, then we sure as hell should be asking, ‘Why not?’” Mason said.

The world’s first global film festival, Manhattan Short received 520 film entries this year from 49 countries, out of which the 10 finalists screened at the Whitney were chosen. Mason, who travelled to New Haven to introduce the festival at the Whitney, said he has received fan letters praising the event for providing a worldwide cultural connection. One fan, for instance, expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to watch a movie in Maine that was being screened in Russia at the same time.

In 2004, the event spanned only seven cities in seven states, with one show per state — this year, the festival took place on all six habitable continents.

Douglass said in an email that Yale had to pay Manhattan Short for the film and rights to public screening. Since Whitney events are free to the public, funding must come from Yale, he said. Wanting to share with fellow Yalies the experience he had when he viewed the films during the 2011 screening in Prague, Douglass said he was not deterred by the challenge of paying for the event.

“I’ve organized screenings and festivals where I have needed to find sources of funding from all over Yale, but it can certainly be done with enough effort,” Douglass said.

The Whitney auditiorium saw a full house for the screening. In addition to saying they enjoyed the individual films, six students who attended the festival said they were grateful for the opportunity to be part of something global.

“The fact that it’s an international film festival is very important,” Andrew Sotiriou ’13 said. “I think this is maybe an example of us being involved in the history of filming.”

Renita Heng ’16 said that without Yale’s support for Manhattan Short, she would never have had the opportunity to view international short films.

In Mason’s eyes, Manhattan Short has “a permanent home” at Yale, and he hopes that the festival will return to campus next year.

The worldwide audience will decide the winner of the 2012 Manhattan Short Film Festival via ballot vote at each venue.

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