Manhattan short film fest

The short film is the oft-forgotten little brother to the feature-length movie. These little pictures often rival feature-length films in terms of excellence, but are regrettably underrepresented in popular cinematic culture, much like the short story is to the novel.

Knowing this, Nicholas Mason, curator and creator of the eleventh annual Manhattan Short Film Festival (MSFF), is on a mission: “My goal is to bring communities together from around the world,” he said. And he plans to do it by presenting 12 shorts from international directors

The festival started humbly – Mason originally projected shorts against a truck in downtown Manhattan – but it has grown substantially over the years, as this year’s festival is slated to reach 115 cities on four continents. This is the first time the festival will reach Burlington.

Celebrity judges moderate most film festivals – indeed the MSFF featured guest judges Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn in past years – but this year’s festival is noteÂworthy for its two interactive qualities.

Each viewer will receive a card upon entering the theater to vote on his or her choice for the best picture. The respective figures from the remaining 114 cities will then be tallied, and the film with the most votes will win. Further, everyone is invited to discuss the films on the festival’s blog, www.msfilmfest.com.

The short film is a director’s “calling card … showing the audience what they can do,” Mason said. It’s little wonder that past MSFF winners have gone on to do great things, including Chris Wedge, diÂrector of “Ice Age” and “Robots” – whose 1998 short “Bunny” took the prize that year – and Luke Greenfield, winner of the 2000 festival, who went on to direct “The Animal” and “The Girl Next Door.”

“These short films are of extremely high quality. Directors in the festival will have careers … you’ll be seeing them in a year or two,” Mason said.

Chris King, director of “Rachel,” one of the films at this year’s festival, could be one of those directors.

“Rachel” centers on a young couple and the woman from whom they wish to adopt a child. King is careful not to reveal much more of the plot to nosey journalists, but simply describes the film as “haunting.”

King cites “The Deer Hunter” and “Ordinary People” as his largest influences and this, coupled with the film’s cryptic description and images on the festival Web site, are sure to make his description apt.

The film is based on a true story that made national headlines several years ago, and features “passages, words literally taken from the girl as she was busted by the police,” King said.

“I’m a fan of hard drama, of hard human situations. I like stories that are character-driven as a theatric story-telling device,” King said.

The Manhattan Short Film Festival premieres at Merrill’s Roxy on Friday, Sept. 19 and will continue through Thursday, Sept. 25. Stella Artois will provide refreshments on opening night.