You decide

Manhattan Short Film Festival

<i>Cigarette Box</i>, seen here, from Poland is one of 12 finalists of the Manhattan Short Film Festival screened in Reno this weekend.

Cigarette Box, seen here, from Poland is one of 12 finalists of the Manhattan Short Film Festival screened in Reno this weekend.

Short films tend to be ignored because they are, well, short, and short is associated with insignificant. Though they may take less time and money to shoot than blockbusters, short films aren’t exactly the lazy filmmaker’s cinema. There’s a bit of a Napoleon complex about them—they’re short, but they demand attention. Every scene is intentional and vital to the film’s development. With new, relatively inexpensive, semi-professional technology and software, more people are taking a crack at the form.

But stripping something down to its most essential elements isn’t easy. The organizers of the Manhattan Short Film Festival have recognized this for the past nine years. This year, the winner of the MSFF will be decided, in part, by Reno audiences—along with audiences in more than 80 cities worldwide—when the festival’s 12 final films are screened here this weekend, Sept 15-16.

Billed as “the largest short film festival in the world,” the MSFF begins with 600 entries from 35 different countries. Preliminary judges whittle those down to just a dozen finalists. In the past, winners were decided by the likes of Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Laura Linney and Eric Stoltz. This year, organizers have put it to a world audience to decide.

Viewers from Moscow to Vienna to Boise to Reno will receive voting cards at their respective screenings to choose their favorite film. The winners will be announced on Sept. 24 after the final screening in New York’s Union Square. Past winners have gone on to take the Oscar for best short film.

“A Nevada vote for the best is equivalent to a New York or Los Angeles vote for the best,” said Neil Siegel, librarian at Truckee Meadows Community College, where one of two screenings in Reno takes place.

The films are no longer than 14 minutes, and subject matter for the two-hour program is wide ranging, with big ideas fitting into small spaces. There is drama, comedy, animation and experimentation.

This year’s finalists are:

Tomek Matusczak of Poland, whose Cigarette Box is set in 1950s Poland and tells of a little boy discovering his father’s secret.

A couple tries to revive their marriage in Last Night by Conor Morrissey of Ireland.

Dentist Stuart Farber looks back on his career in Farber’s Nerve by Morgan Miller of the United States.

Director Clayton Haskell tells the true story of a Cuban woman winning a U.S. visa lottery in Lyra Lezama.

The Third Parent, by American Christina Frenzel, documents the relationship between an 11-year-old girl and her younger, autistic brother.

A blind man and his dog are the centerpiece of Without Seeing by Salvador Gomez Cuenca of Spain.

Hollywood Photos of Katie Mills, by American Paul Tompkins, takes on the precarious nature of star potential.

Security, by Lars Henning of Germany, features a security guard and the shoplifter he lets go.

The animated Who I Am What I Want? by Chris Shephard of the United Kingdom, is a disorderly comedy about the human condition.

Honesty, love and a relationship are examined in Serenade by Australian Kyle Blanshard.

A fence, four fans and a game compose Offside by Erez Tadmor and Guy Nattiv of Israel.

And, finally, a 20th-century pioneer takes on the unknown in Mowing the Lawn by Michael Bentham of the United Kingdom.

The screening is presented by the Reno Film Festival, whose own fest is transitioning from its traditional time in November to next May.