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Small movies on the big screen, worldwide

A short film festival arrives to USF on Thursday – and it will make stops in Guanajuato, Mexico, Kerala, India, and other locations during that same day.

The Manhattan Short Film Festival – the self-proclaimed “world’s first global film festival” – will play for free at the Marshall Student Center’s Oval Theater at 8 p.m.

The screening includes 10 shorts in six different languages, all running under 16 minutes. These finalists will be broadcast at colleges and cinemas in more than 200 cities on six continents – from Tampa to Darling, South Africa – part of a weeklong event that began Sunday and ends Oct. 3.

The film festival started 13 years ago when founder Nick Mason projected 16 short films on the side of a truck in Manhattan. Later, he would screen the films in Union Square Park. In the midst of 9/11’s sudden tragedy, Mason said he wanted the festival to stand as a reminder that life would go on.

“The city asked me to make sure whatever I did, I put the festival on because they wanted to move the park forward – because at the time, it was a scary place to be,” Mason said.

Over the course of the following week, the Manhattan Short Film Festival began airing on TV stations all across the world. In 2002, Mason had more than 500 submissions to the festival.

Mason said the films that year revealed more “about how the world was feeling than any news channel that I was watching, and I felt that short films really get the essence of how people are feeling in their country.”

Now, Manson said that a festival that started with 300 people in one city has grown to 100,000 people in more than 200 cities.

“It’s not so much being into art films, but it allows people to grow an interest in the world, and that goes beyond the films,” Mason said. “It’s not going to be on the Internet, DVD or TV – so if you don’t go, you’ve missed out.”

The 2010 feature shorts include scenarios ranging from bullying others to biking naked.

The film “Echo” by Magnus von Horn follows a police investigator who “re-constructs a brutal murder, hoping to learn how two young boys could have committed such a crime,” according to the festival’s website.

Horn, a Swedish filmmaker in Poland, read a story about a murder in Alabama and adapted it to fit his part of the world. Mason said the short raises questions about how society deals with young children who commit horrendous crimes.

“That has a very important message, and he tells it very well, and he leaves that question up to the audience,” Mason said. “The question is yours. He is not dictating your thought. He gives you a scenario and asks what you think.”

“Underground” was shot in the Mexican state of Aguascalientes and runs at exactly 10 minutes, according to the festival’s website. The story follows two Mexican immigrants trying to enter the U.S.

The French animated film “Madagascar” even incorporates two countries, as director Bastien Dubois offers a travelogue of Madagascar through drawings.

Erin Monahan, a senior majoring in English and psychology, said part of the festival’s appeal would be seeing short films in an accessible environment.

“I haven’t really been exposed to a lot of short films, but the ones I have seen have been both insightful and powerful,” Monahan said.

The audience will be asked to vote on films and an overall winner will be declared in New York City on Oct. 3. Monahan said this means students will be able to participate in a worldwide event and “someone is actually going to listen to them – at least through voting.”

Ryan Salazar, a junior majoring in music education and president of the College of the Arts Council (CoTAC), said students will vote using an official ballot card once all 10 films have been shown.

“We’re glad to give USF the opportunity to join the world in watching and judging these short films,” Salazar said.

Salazar said CoTAC worked with the Office of International Affairs, Latin American Student Association and other USF organizations to show the festival for the first time at USF.

“Manhattan Short uses independent film to expose the audience to cultural diversity and international issues,” Salazar said. “Participating in an event of global magnitude is a great opportunity for our university, and we hope the students take advantage.”