Tropfest Short Film Festival to Expand to Abu Dhabi

Seven-minute short fest expands to Arabia in November.

SYDNEY -- Australia’s largest short film festival and competition, Tropfest is expanding internationally, with Tropfest Arabia to take place in Abu Dhabi in partnership with the government–backed media content creation unit, Twofour54. 

Announcing Tropfest Arabia at the annual Sydney event Sunday, Tropfest founder John Polson called filmmakers in 19 countries in the Middle East and North Africa to start pulling together seven-minute short films for the inaugural November event. 

"As this industry continues to develop, so too does the need to provide budding filmmakers with a platform to showcase their creative talents. We hope that the introduction of Tropfest Arabia will do just that,” Polson said. 

The event will mirror the format of Tropfest Australia which has been running for 19 years. 

Short filmmakers submit a film of no more than seven minutes that contains the Tropfest Signature Item, to show that it has been made specifically for the competition.  The entries are whittled down to 16 finalists, which are then screened at a free public outdoor event, and broadcast live on pay TV here and to satellite events at other cities around Australia, with a panel of celebrity judges in attendance. 

It has become a significant public event in Sydney with around 120,000 attending each February and generating major sponsorship and ad dollars. 

Prizewinners take home a range of cash prizes, equipment and travel prizes and the winner is flown to Los Angeles for a series of meetings. All 16 finalists films are distributed on DVD via the major newspapers sin Sydney and Melbourne. 

Judges at Sunday’s event in Sydney included Bruce Beresford, Xavier Samuel, Olivia Newton-John, Stephan Elliot, Jack Thompson, last year’s winner Abe Forsyth, Animal Kingdom producer Liz Watts and Joseph Fiennes who judged remotely from Spain. 

Previous Tropfest Australia winners have included Gregor Jordan, Nash Edgerton and actor-directors Abe Forsyth and Rob Carlton, while industry luminaries including George Miller, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe are patrons and offer prizes, while past judges have included Keanu Reeves, Will Smith, John Woo, Elijah Wood and Phil Noyce

Twofour54 CEO Wayne Borg said the Tropfest concept fitted perfectly with the Emirates city’s drive to become a Middle East content creation hub.

“We believe that we share a common mission in our efforts to help content creators realise their potential. There is an abundance of talent in North Africa and the Middle East. Since short films are seen as the entry point to the film industry, we believe that this grass roots festival will provide a unique platform for emerging film makers.”

Polson and Borg said they were expecting Tropfest Arabia to attract an initial audience of around 7,000 to 10,000. 

Tropfest has been running in New York for the last  four years and Polson told The Hollywood Reporter discussions were under way with various partners to hold the festival in Shangahi, Mexico and London as well. 

Damon Gameau, the winner of Tropfest 2011, will be on the judging panel for the inaugural Arabia fest.

Participants in Tropfest Arabia must be a citizen of the Middle East and North Africa region including Algeria, Bahrain , Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, UAE and Yemen. Entrants must conform to the religious, cultural and political sensitivities of the region and films must be appropriate for public screening in Abu Dhabi.

Prizes on offer for Tropfest Arabia include cash prizes of $15,000, $10,000 and $5,000, a visit to Los Angeles for a week of meetings with the senior executives from the film industry, a trip to Australia to take part in Tropfest 2012, and a host of other opportunities set to encourage filmmakers.