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Short-film fest draws 60 to AoA

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Monday, October 8, 2018

Some 60 area film buffs turned out Saturday as the annual Manhattan Short Film Festival returned to Arts of the Albemarle.

AoA screened nine short films from the United States, Canada, Britain, Kosovo, Austria, New Zealand, Germany and Hungary. A second screening of the films was scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

Rosana Castilho, who is from Brazil and has lived in Elizabeth City for eight years, said she had attended film festivals in her native country that lasted a week. However, she was pleased with the film offerings at AoA’s two-day event.

“I really loved this one,” Castilho said.

Some of the films featured subjects that were very sad but she enjoyed all of them, she said.

“There were good messages,” Castilho said.

Castilho said she especially appreciated the message of “Two Strangers Who Meet Five Times.”

British director Marcus Markou’s film deals with prejudice in a frank but hopeful way through the eyes of two strangers who repeatedly run into each other in seemingly random ways. 

“I noticed this low-level intolerance and prejudice of other people in ordinary situations,” Markou said in a statement included in the program accompanying “Two Strangers” screening at AoA.

The film “Her,” directed by More Raca of Kosovo, portrays a mother and daughter who escape from an abusive family situation. The film, which includes subtitles, ends with a surprisingly happy ending.

“I liked the message of ‘Her’ — run away,” Castilho said.

In addition to topics of prejudice and domestic violence, some of the films screened during the festival dealt with war, sexual violence and grief.

But there was fun and games, too, and the shortest of the films — the 8:47-minute “Fire in Cardboard City” — combined action, laughs and cardboard animation to tell an entertaining story while also working in a bit of live action at the end.

The offbeat animated short won over local film buff Keith Smith, who said “I liked the artistry and I liked the concept. It was unique.”

Smith said he was very impressed with the short films screened during the festival. He also liked “Baghead,” which explores the topic of death and grief in an unusual way. And he, too, found “Her” captivating despite not being able to understand the language in the film.

“The message was powerful,” Smith said of “Her,” noting much of the story was told through facial expressions and other visual imagery.

Mary March said she appreciated the “seeming coincidence” of the strangers meeting again and again in “Two Strangers Who Meet Five Times.”

“The acting was good, too,” said March, who had not attended the festival before.

“I’ll definitely make it a point to come in the future,” March said. “They packed a lot in a short film like that.”

March said she appreciated “Her” even though it was difficult to read the subtitles. She said she was able to follow the main thread of the story through the visual storytelling.

She pointed out that in real life domestic violence rarely ends in the positive way it did in the film, with the women fleeing the abuse together. 

The Manhattan Short Film Festival is a global event, with the nine films selected from 1,565 entries from 73 countries. Screenings of the nine films take place across six continents between Sept. 27 and Oct. 7. Attendees are invited to vote for their favorite film and actor.

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