NEW YORK, May 1, 2010 — Manhattan Film Festival (http://www.manhattanfilmfestival.org) has just unveiled their first round of official selections. The festival, formerly known as Independent Features, announced today 10 features and 48 short films headlined by Jason Cusato’s “Apostles of Park Slope.” The event will be hosted July 21-25 on the Upper West Side and out of the 58 films revealed today, 24 feature the work of New York filmmakers and 11 are international selections.
Cusato, who leads a list of 9 Brooklyn filmmakers, said, “The Manhattan Film Festival is a unique festival that goes above and beyond to make each filmmaker and their work feel special. We are excited and honored to be part of this year’s festival, especially opening night.” Cusato’s film “When Broomsticks Were King” was the first film the festival ever screened. Founder Philip J. Nelson said, “I believe Jason is the next great filmmaker to come out of New York and it’s only fitting he opens our first year as the Manhattan Film Festival.”
In January the festival legally became the Manhattan Film Festival. In one short year they have grown over 729% and are on track to become the largest independent film festival in New York City. While those facts are alone staggering, what is more impressive is they accomplished this without the benefit of a corporate sponsor. Their rise was not easy.
After hitting a brick wall in 2008 their chances to make it were slim to none. After a partner failed to perform they were left with an economic nightmare. Nelson had no way to support his family and his situation was dire. While cleaning out his office he noticed a content partnership agreement he was given. He thought of it as the only opportunity he had to get himself out of the mess that he was in. He started a vlog and 50 million views later he credits that partnership for saving his life. Little by little he started digging himself out of a seemingly insurmountable hole and their vision of creating a film festival that would level the playing field for independent filmmakers was still alive.
A year later, at a fundraiser for the “Apostles of Park Slope,” Nelson saw how Cusato brought his community together and was reminded of the true independent spirit. The festival has since reached out to local businesses to bring special screenings and festival events such as after-parties into the community. “Our goal is to bring local businesses added clientele, give attendees a unique festival experience, while creating a product equal to or greater than Hollywood on a shoestring budget,” said festival co-founder Jose Ruiz Jr. For more details or a list of official selections, please visit http://www.manhattanfilmfestival.org.