On Sunday afternoon, I decided to go to Tropfest – Australia’s biggest short film festival. I sat on picnic chairs with friends in front of the overflow screen, eating chilli and sour cream Doritos and drinking fruit juice. The air was full of the smells of KFC chicken and chips, and popcorn from the nearby food tents.
Read the missing chunk of this article at Weekend Notes.
Fortunately the festival wasn’t all artsy tears.
The first finalist was “The Applicant” starring Pete Rosethorn as an alien attempting to get through a job interview. It was very funny, and I don’t think anyone in the world could have done better than Pete Rosethorn. His physicality and style is perfectly suited to the role, with lines like, “Oh! Yes! I want to eat children *pause* TEACH children.” And there was a nice added dimension at the end.
The second finalist was “Silencer” starring Frank Woodley talking about the very serious dangers of mime. It was also funny, but not as funny as “The Applicant”.
The third was “Flight”, a strangely haunting story about hope in poverty, featuring a skateboarder who isn’t part of the local skateboarding crowd, and who privately attempts to fly. There was literally half a word of dialogue. I thought it was beautifully acted and filmed, saturated with hope against a crummy backdrop, and the mix of skateboarding with naiive hope and grace was an excellent choice.
The fourth was about Sven the Swedish astronaut – I wasn’t able to get the title and I missed large sections of dialogue because I wasn’t able to read the subtitles. It was charmingly retro and funny all the same. The best part was that during the film HUNDREDS OF FRIGGIN BATS swooped directly overhead, flapping their silhouette wings so jerkily it was as if they were made of black cardboard cutouts and string. Excellent! I’ll include a short video of THEM at the end of this entry.
I missed the title of the fifth one, too, and found the plot slightly confusing (CJ explained it to me later). The main actress was red-headed and beautiful, and the peculiar dialogue all made sense at the end.
The sixth was another hilarious one, a mockumentary called “Y2Gay” about a redneck fool building a fallout shelter to avoid the increasing gayness of the outside world. As humour, it was exquisite. As a message, the message was clear but the humour weakened it (because – and yes I’ve heard of Glenn Beck – no-one in the real world is that stupid).
The seventh was “Missing Her” about a Thai boy adopted by Australian parents after his mother’s death. It was sad and awkward and tragic, and the boy’s acting was brilliant. The ending was hopeful, but weakened by the fact that I’d thought of it as a possibility (although I think most people wouldn’t).
The eighth was “Monkeys” a passionate tale of bogan drama in the burbs starring Joel Edgerton. I could see why people would like it, but for me it wasn’t that exciting.
The moon was out, and looked far more stunning than this pic can convey:
There was a break in which I managed to meet my friend who I hadn’t seen since she went to Japan. Aieee! We were so excited (and also cold) that we spent ages standing and dancing at each other.
The ninth film, “The Unspoken” was a monologue to a dying father from his son (because no-one hears their own eulogy). It was quite beautiful and heartfelt, but also a bit wrong. Either it was fiction (in which case it was quite a gimmick, and I found the shots of the “dad” a little too “Oh, look at the skinny sad dying guy”) or it was non-fiction (in which case the sentiments feel a little exploitative because of being part of a film festival).
The tenth film, “Maestro” was about a homeless man conducting the music in his head; a squeegee; Luna Park; and the ocean. It was stunningly acted, stunningly filmed, and the music was good. Since we heard (and saw) the music he heard, it was either a tragic insight into a madman’s head – or it was a joyful exploration of a world we rarely see. It felt uplifting to me.
After that was “A Family Affair” which was another mockumentary, this time on an incestuous couple. It was way, way too gross for me.
The twelth film was “Animal Beat Box”, a childishly fun and strangely hilarious beat box animation song done with animal names and pictures.
“Focus” (from South Africa) was an elegant black and white film, with fine acting (including a brief and carefully-filmed sex scene) but the story was utterly ordinary. The ordinariness was the point I think, but ultimately I found it dull (excluding the visuals, which were exquisite). During that film, a group of people were dancing around one of the tall lights. That was cool.
After that was “A Desperate Deed” which had an interesting, ominous and original story with a twist in the tail.
Film fifteen was “Transparency” about the choice an artist made to exploit the worst moment of his girlfriend’s life. It was well done.
The last film (the famous audience choice film, narrated by Russell Crowe) was called “Bird Therapy” and had a support group of people dressed in seriously ridiculous bird costumes, talking passionately about their various disorders – the pigeon who lost his mate to a jet engine, and so on. The acting must have been extremely difficult, but it was spot on. I couldn’t help wondering, though, what the point was (possibly it was just mocking all self-help groups). It was funny, and suited the seven minute time frame, but still not as funny as “The Applicant”.
So! Who do I reckon should have won?
I really loved “The Applicant” (the funniest, with fine acting and an extra kick at the end), “Flight” (brilliant juxtapositions and a sense of hope) “Y2Gay” (very funny and politically timely), “Missing Her” (for the exploration of a hard subject, and for the acting of the boy) and “Maestro” (for making all of Sydney into an orchestra of light and sound)- and “Animal Beat Box” really made me laugh (although with about as much originality as a clown slipping on a banana peel).
In my opinion, the gold goes to “Maestro”. “The Applicant” is the first runner-up, with “Y2Gay” getting bronze.
But the actual winner was, oddly, “Animal Beat Box”.
Note to self: Next time you go to Tropfest (there most certainly will be a next time) take: (1) a coat, (2) Aeroguard, and (3) your Batman outfit.