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Hard Topics Tackled in Phoenix Art Museum's Short Film Showcase

Screenshot from this year's trailers. The film shown is "Her."EXPAND
Screenshot from this year's trailers. The film shown is "Her."
Manhattan Short Film Festival

“Like a shape shifting witch,” is how the director of Baghead described his film about a man who will go to extreme lengths to get closure about his dead wife and brother.

Baghead film opened up the Phoenix Art Museum’s screening of the Manhattan Short Film Festival, which featured films from Europe, North America, and New Zealand. After every screening, each audience member has a chance to vote for their favorite film and favorite actor. The winners will be announced on October 8th. Some of the films were humorous and relatively light-hearted attempts at describing life’s futility such as Fire in Cardboard City, while others like Her were gruesome in their depictions of issues surrounding domestic violence.

The films did not shy away hard topics but many offered reprieves to their messy portrayals of life and society. One crowd favorite seemed to be Two Strangers Who Met Five Times, which told a story of two men whose paths continue to cross in unexpected ways as they grow from children playing together to volunteer and resident of an elderly care facility.

Julie Graf attended the screening at the invitation of her friend, who has been attending the film festival for the past eight years. She enjoys the way the films hooked her in a short amount of time and left her wanting more. Her favorite at the halfway point of the festival was Two Strangers Who Met Five Times, and she felt it was a reminder that it’s always “important to be nice to people no matter where you are, because you just don’t know how many times you might run into them.”

Another standout was Someone, a film about a family hiding out as Russian soldiers attack their German city in an attempt to get revenge for past crimes. During the attack, a young soldier sexually assaults a young girl, and it’s up to her to decide if she’s going to forgive him. It’s a powerful reminder that war and its consequences can be very different for women than they are for men. The film was based on a true story and expertly weaves together interview footage with actors engaging in a dramatic retelling. The format’s been done before, but the acting and cinematography are so beautiful that it’s enjoyable regardless.

But no movie hit as hard as Fauve, a Canadian piece about a friendship between two young boys that takes a dangerous turn. The film is intensely raw and leaves one feeling like they have fallen into an abyss of darkness to which there is no exit. While watching, it’s easy to expect some happy ending or at least a moment that shows there is light at the end of the tunnel, but film offers none of this. Instead, it leaves viewers with the bleak landscape of Canada and the knowledge that some things don’t get resolved.

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Carrie Leary, who attended the screening with a group of friends, voted for Fauve as her top choice.

“I kind of go off how much reaction I have in that short time and what hits me the hardest and that one definitely hit me the hardest,” she says.

She noted that many films tend to have a little happy part, but it struck her that this one did not. She said that everyone can relate to the feeling of helplessness that was portrayed in the film.

The movies chosen created a viewing that had a wide range of emotions and topics that left the audience consistently entertained. The audience can eagerly await to see if any of them end up getting nominated for an Oscar – all are eligible – with the knowledge that they got to see them first. 

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