Manhattan Short, a short film festival, has been running for 22 years, but 2019 was the first time it came to Tomah.
Over the course of two weeks, the Tomah Public Library hosted the film festival, which consists of 10 short films ranging in length between 10 to 20 minutes over a 2 ½-hour time block.
Irma Keller, director of the Tomah Public Library, said library staff took a chance bringing the festival to Tomah, but she’s glad the library took the plunge. The quality of the films and community response have exceeded her expectations.
“Even myself, I didn’t know what to expect, and I would say, in my personal opinion, that nine out of 10 of the films just blew me away,” she said. “I think they will always be in my head ... they were so well done.”
The films shown were the 10 chosen out of the over 1,000 entries submitted to an international festival, Keller said. The films are “worldwide” with one originating from Finland, one from Germany, one from Iran, one from France, one from Canada, two from the United States and three from the United Kingdom.
Some of the films that have previously been a part of the film festival have gone on to win Academy Awards, Keller said.
It was a unique experience, Keller said. She was enthused by the attendee’s reactions to the festival.
“The people that have come have been so excited about the films when they’re leaving,” she said. “I think most of us didn’t know what to expect, unless you’ve gone to other film festivals ... But the response has been very, very positive. Everyone who has come, I have not heard anything negative from anybody. People are left as blown away as I was.”
Attendee Diane Erickson said she was amazed by the festival. She couldn’t imagine that it could be so moving.
“The emotions that we went through, from tense drama to tear-jerking to thought-provoking and pulling at your heart strings ... every one was fantastic,” she said.
Fellow attendee Stephanie Hofer agreed. She came to the library skeptical of what a short film could do.
“I love movies, but two hours vs. something that might be 10, 15, 20 minutes? I thought, ‘how can they say much?’” she said. “But they were powerful and they said a lot, every one of them. I cannot say that one of them was not powerful.”
Attendee Marcy Johnson enjoyed the unexpected endings.
“Some of the endings were quite surprising; they all had a nice twist,” she said. “It was hard to choose the best movie or best actor, actress. You have to see them all before you choose.”
Hofer said her favorite film was At the End of the World.
“There wasn’t a lot of (speaking); it was all said by looks and emotions,” she said. “It was emotionally powerful.”
Erickson said she couldn’t choose a favorite.
In addition to viewing the films, attendees have the opportunity to help the festival in choosing a winning film and a winning actor. Upon arrival at the festival, attendees are given a card with the names of the films and a selection of the actors and they can check off which of each they think was best. The results are then gathered and sent to the festival organizers.
On Oct. 7 the festival will announce the winners of each category.