Today kicks off UNM’s weekendlong screenings of the international Manhattan Short Film Festival.

What began as a projection of homemade short films on the side of a truck in New York to a crowd of about 300 passers-by 15 years ago has blown up into a call for filmmakers and audience members on a global scale.

The Southwest Film Center, located in the bottom floor of the SUB, is one of only three participating theaters in the state and 77 venues throughout the country.

It will host four different screenings of the collaboration of films. This differs from most festivals in that they are screened once and prospective audience members have to travel to see it, said Victoria Velarde director of the center.

“Though it is my first year running the festival, the film center does it every year,” she said. “It seems to draw more of the adult crowd and now we want to draw more students.”

Another aspect that sets this two-hour film festival apart from others is its international interactivity. When audience members purchase their tickets, they are given a voting card, upon which they can vote for their favorite films and actor/actresses and turn them back into the venue.

At the end of the weekend, the Film Center will send all of the votes back to the film festival headquarters in New York, where they will be tallied along with other cards from all over the world in order to declare a winner.

“I like how it offers people the ability to participate if they wouldn’t be able to otherwise due to distance,” said Kristopher Bellows, a sophomore excited about attending the festival.

The gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded based on the number of votes received from the venues.

The other award categories, including best animation, best cinematography, best editor and best screenplay, are judged by professionals in the respective industry.

Three of the finalists are entries from the U.S. Other finalists include filmmakers from Finland, England, Australia, France and Ireland.

In an interview with U.S. finalist Jacob Sillman on the Manhattan Short website, he said he had many challenges as a student filmmaker.

“I had everything you’re not supposed to have in a student film: animals, children, stunts, winter weather, rugged terrain with very few roads and cell phone service, lots of heavy equipment to haul around, a train and special effects,” he said. “Producing the film was by far the biggest challenge I have ever dealt with as a filmmaker.”

Along with Sillman’s film “Pale of Settlement,” the others from U.S. are “I Am A Big Ball of Sadness” by Ken Urban, which is about haughty NYC rooftop parties and “Black Metal” by Kat Candler, a film about a metal singer facing the effects of his dark lyrics.

The film from Irish director Tony Donoghue “Irish Folk Furniture” is the only animated film at the Festival, and is about recycling in rural Ireland.

French filmmakers make up two more finalists, Alexandra Naoum and Bastien Dubois, whose films are about serendipitous meetings between strangers and art through the view of an adventurous traveler.

These filmmakers, combined with the other four finalists from the United Kingdom, Finland and Australia, create a community of international filmmakers brought together in a local and personal way.

According to the festival’s website, “Manhattan Short is not a touring festival; rather, it is an instantaneous celebration that occurs simultaneously across the globe, bringing great films to great venues and allowing the audiences to select their favorites.”

The festival began being screened internationally on Friday and will end Sunday. Venues and entries can be found all over the globe. There are 92 venues and 10 finalists, chosen carefully from the original 628 entries, according to the site.