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August 27, 1998 2:00 AM
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Tropfest Set To Screen 1998 Finalists At NYC's Bowery Bar; Plans To Screen '99 Films In The Works

Tropfest Set To Screen 1998 Finalists At NYC's Bowery Bar;
Plans To Screen '99 Films In The Works

by Mark Rabinowitz




Tropfest, the five year-old Australian short film festival comes to New
York City's Bowery Bar on August 31st, with a screening of the 16
finalists from February's Australian edition. Founded in a Sydney coffee
shop by Australian actor/director John Polson, the festival has quickly
grown from approximately 500 people watching a few shorts in a cafe in
1993, to an audience of about 25,000 at Rushcutter's Bay Park and an
additional 8,000 in Victoria Street, both in Sydney, and an additional
1,000 people viewed the films from Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and
Perth, Australia. The films are all projected on video. In addition,
submissions are growing at a rapid rate, with 8 films submitted in 1993
and over 400 submissions for 1999 so far. The entry requirements are
simple: each film must be a maximum length of seven minutes, and must
include a different thematic element or object each year. In 1998 it was
a kiss and in 1999 it is a pair of chopsticks.


The Tropfest finalists are being brought to New York by The Australia
Company, a group "set up to produce Australian art in New York,"
according to board member Heathe St. Clair, with whom indieWIRE spoke on
Wednesday. According to St. Clair, "As [the Company grows], we're hoping
that we will be the voice of Australian arts in New York," by continuing
to import various arts, including "music, visual arts, film and
theater," with St. Clair's primary goal to start a theater company
already in progress. St. Clair came to Tropfest when he was in the
winning film of the 1994 edition, but has not been in a winner since,
and notes that with increased submissions, it is "increasingly difficult
to get into the competition." The goal is to have Tropfest '99 films
screened in New York live via satellite in February.


Tropfest's 1998 edition attracted a number of celebrity judges,
including Keanu Reeves, Samuel L. Jackson, director Baz Luhrman
("William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet"), director Jane Campion ("The
Piano") and screenwriter Laura Jones ("Oscar and Lucinda"), among
others. First prize was awarded to "Intolerance," by Laura Fienstein,
but when her name was announced, it was discovered that Ms. Fienstein
was a pseudonym for Paul Fenech whose short "Hero," was screening out of
competition in the fest. Fenech told The Sydney Morning Herald that he
thought having two films screening by the same director might diminish
his chances for winning a prize for "Intolerance." Fenech's prize for
first place was AU$5,000 and a trip to Los Angeles to meet with studio
development executives. Other prizes at the festival included best
actor, AU$2,000 donated by Nicole Kidman, which was split between
Lizbeth Kennelly ("I Want You") and "Intolerance" star Sandy Gutman, a
AU$4,000 screenplay development package won by Kennelly for writing "I
Want You" and the AU$1,000 Tropicana Award, given to 16-year-old Abe
Forsythe for "Guided By the Light of the Lord."


[For details about Tropfest, send e-mail to ozco2000@aol.com]

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