By Cameron Barnes
As Sandpoint residents, we should all be proud to know that our very own Panida Theater was chosen among roughly 250 venues across six continents (127 in the United States) to showcase the Manhattan Short International Film Festival. It was the first of its kind to simultaneously play its finalist entries worldwide, when it began in 1998. This year, 844 short film were received from 52 countries, of which only 10 finalists will grace the screen at the Panida Theater.
This showcase is also unique in the allowing each ticket holder to help determine the winners. Once you’ve seen the showing at the Panida, you will have the opportunity to cast your vote for the short film you thought outshined the others. Compare that to most major film festivals, which only seem to be concerned if famous actors review or vote in winners.
Manhattan Short’s bronze medal winner for 2015, “Bear Story,” went on to win the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. The silver medal winner, “Shok,” received an Oscar nomination for Best Live Action Short Film.
I had a conversation with festival director Nicholas Mason about how this festival all began.
SPR: Considering Manhattan Short’s first year began as a projection onto a van, could you have ever imagined it becoming such an international spectacle?
NM: No, of course not, and it was never a plan either. After 2001 when they say the world changed, so did short films. What I notice with a lot of the filmmakers that made short films is that they are very relevant to what’s happening in the world at that time… This also means that the films date very quickly because they started to reflect how people were feeling in the world. So I really started thinking that I needed to share this with a wider audience … and once digital came out, you could put it onto a DVD rather than making these large Beta tapes, so it was affordable to ship.
SPR: Can you speak on the impact of the voting system where anyone with a ticket can cast their vote?
NM: When I first started, I was in Union Square park. All of the restaurants would try to get famous people and actors to judge their films in hopes that a famous judge would help the festival overall. And it didn’t. The second you give the judging to the audience, it becomes a better event. Why it became big was that audiences were able to come in and have fun and judge something … so it was really transformed by the cinema-going public.
SPR: This may be a dumb question … but can you tell me why the event is named Manhattan Short if the event is so global?
NM: Well it started here, and I even dropped the word film festival. Things that become big in my view always are one or two words. People seem to know Manhattan Short now and it seems to be sticking. Funny enough, if it was called Denver Short it wouldn’t be outside Colorado—no offense to Colorado. It’s a funny word, Manhattan, in that it’s a very global word. This actually was a lucky accident for the event to begin in Manhattan.
SPR: Can you go into how and why the Panida Theater was chosen to be added to the list? What is the process of adding new venues elsewhere?
NM: It’s kind of become—what’s that saying?—seven degrees of separation. It’s knowing them, building them and finding the person who runs them in the right community. Patricia, she’s a real film-driven person. I noticed that as it branched out across this country, if you took out the cinemas like the Panida for example, those areas become culturally void … in many areas across the country. So it was quite interesting to watch with this event, the joining of all of those cultural Meccas, collectively together the power they had as one. Other cinemas similar to the Panida across the country are now looking at what they’re doing and saying, we should do that. With digital now, they can all play whatever and get a forum going for an audience. So I end up getting calls from every cinema similar to the Panida across the world, but I’d love to ring in at least another 20 venues from across the USA. I’m really finding that if you have the United States and Russia as your foundation, that no one is going to say no to what your presenting. Every film has got to find its right festival, every festival has got to find its right films and both of them together have got to find their right audience and then magic happens, and that’s what’s happened here.
The Panida will be showing the ten short films together in four separate time slots. Sept. 30 at 5:30, Oct. 1 at 3:30 and 7:30, and Oct. 2nd at 3:30.
For more information please visit ManhattanShort.com.