By Roger Paradiso
The 12th annual Manhattan Film Festival will take place April 18-29, 2018. Since 2015 the festival has run concurrently with Tribeca, giving filmmakers an alternative opportunity to screen when the entire industry ascends upon New York City! Every year we pride ourselves in programming a diverse film lineup featuring student, emerging, and established filmmakers. The festival is covered by local, national, and international media outlets including the New York Times, USA Today, The Hollywood Reporter, and Good Morning America. MFF has been honored by MovieMaker Magazine as one of “The Coolest Film Festivals in the World” and as one of “25 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee.”
The Manhattan Film Festival was founded by Philip Nelson and Jose Ruiz in 2007. The Festival moved to the heart of the Village in 2012 and showed films at the old Quad Cinema. They moved to Cinema Village located at 22 East 12th in 2014. I talked to co-founder Philip Nelson recently on a snowy day in New York.
Q: Philip, what makes your festival stand out from the rest?
A: We are not easily intimidated. After the screening of Vaxxed: From Cover Up to Catastrophe, a controversial documentary about a link between the MMR vaccine and autism was canceled by Tribeca, we reached out to the filmmakers about picking up the screening. They accepted the invitation and the screening was set for the same time and date of their canceled screening. It worked out perfect because they all had travel arrangements in place. The Q & A that followed was moderated by award winning investigative journalist, Sharyl Attkisson. It took place at The Players Theatre. We were inundated with many angry people. It didn’t stop us, it actually strengthened our resolve. We later found a lot of those people attacking us online where paid by large corporations. At the end of the day the post announcing the selection went viral because the voices the people were much larger than paid lobbyists. We won’t cave to corporate or political pressure.
Q: Why did you move to the Village in 2012?
A: In a way it was by chance. We were looking to book a commercial theater and received an email from The Quad. We followed up on their email and later booked the venue. When The Quad was sold and was under renovation we decided to stay in the neighborhood and booked The Players Theatre which is a great venue with a great history. The following year we booked Cinema Village and have been there happily ever since.
Q: In this day and age of big corporate festivals and big corporate films, why do you choose to go the other direction and promote different and provocative indie films?
A: We like to have the ability to give filmmakers a platform without being worried who is going to try to suppress their voice.
Q: How is your festival experience different than say a bigger corporate festival like Sundance for instance?
A: In one way it is similar. We work to book great venues such as Cinema Village and offer the experience of screening in a commercial theater. It is different because projects we screen do not have to be signed off by corporate sponsors. You are going to see a diverse range of films from all points of view.
Q: What do you think is the future for independent Films and Independent Film Festivals?
A: I think one of the keys for both independent filmmakers and festivals alike is to create and program audience engaging films and know who your audience is.
Q: Tell us a little bit about this year’s festival?
A: You can expect a diverse film lineup featuring student, emerging, and established filmmakers. We created Polling Places to promote audience voting and film reviews. Rate a film and receive an “I Voted” sticker. This sticker will be good for discounts at local establishments.
Q: How do people buy tickets and read about your festival?
A: People can go to www.manhattanff.com and browse our event calendar. An interactive program will be out in about a week.