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Manhattan Short Film Project


La Ruta Natural

By Bret McCabe | Posted 9/14/2005

The eighth annual Manhattan Short Film Project starts its most ambitious run at the Senator Theatre this week. Attendees vote for one of the 12 short-film finalists—culled from 504 entries from 30 countries—after the two-and-a-half hour screening. And after the project runs through its 53 cities around the country, the audience-crowned winner earns the opportunity to direct a feature film to be distributed through the independent network established by this tour.

The best thing about these shorts is their overall high quality. The 12 shorts—from Australia, England, Ireland, Israel, Spain, the United States, and Wales—run the genre gamut from horror to comedy, drama to sly stylistic cross-pollinations, all in under 14 minutes. American entry “Cuco Gomez-Gomez Is Dead!,” from director Francisco Lorite, marries the police investigation of the titular resident of a Los Angeles apartment building with comedic sketches to form this hallucinatory digital-video dream. Irish director Brendan Muldowney takes a very basic horror-movie trope—a young girl afraid of the basement—and plays with classic thriller paces before blithely walking you into a creepy dark corner you didn’t see coming in “The Ten Steps.” And stylish Spanish entry “La Ruta Natural” is a Memento-esque memory game that unfolds like a side show of a life yet to be lived.

Some of the most accomplished shorts here leave more indelible impressions than anything currently in theaters. Irish director Ed Godsell’s “The Lump” is the most flat-out-fucked movie experience you will have in a long, long time. Short in a grittily dreamlike black and white, it traces the story of a Cork wino with a troubling lump on his side that he finally seeks treatment for—resulting in a lumpectomy sure to trouble sleep for nights after watching it. And Israeli director Matan Guggenheim’s “Crickets” is quite simply an accomplished narrative of mundane mystery, on par with something out of Mikhail Bulgakov or Haruki Murakami. A young Israeli man loses both of his parents to a suicide bomber and starts being haunted by the deafening roar of chirping crickets. It’s an unbearable condition that he can’t shake until he meets a man who introduces him to an underground club of people who have also lost loved ones to bombers. They find an otherwise elusive emotional catharsis through betting on where the next terrorist bombing is going to take place. It’s an idea horrifically absurd enough to feel all too real, and “Crickets” culminates in a moment of quietly unnerving tragedy that stays with you long after its short running time concludes.

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