Tropfest gives Japan a peek at Australia

by Cameron Allan Mckean

Staff Writer

The homegrown Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia will have competition for eyeballs this year as Australia’s Tropfest descends on Japan. The event claims — perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek — to be the “world’s largest short-film festival.”

Tropfest is a raucous juggernaut of a film festival. It was founded and is still directed by John Polson, who has grown it from a small event at Sydney’s Tropicana Cafe in 1993 into one of Australia’s largest film events. Imagine 150,000 people in a public park watching 16 shorts (selected from more that 700 annually) under the stars — with a fair share of drinking involved.

“The great appeal of (Tropfest) is that people go with their families and friends, with a picnic basket, and enjoy the films while sitting out on the grass,” says Tropfest in Japan secretariat Masayo Okayasu. “Outdoor cinema isn’t as common here in Japan, so we want to replicate the atmosphere of Tropfest in Australia.”

What makes Tropfest unique is that each film shown is made specifically for the competition. They’re all seven minutes long and feature a specifically designated theme for that year’s competition. Previous ones have included “Balloon,” “Sneeze” and “Change.”

Tropfest in Japan will show eight short films — parodies, thrillers, animation and even a tear jerker. All works are previous winners, finalists or crowd favorites from the past few years of the Australian festival. They include Matt Hardie’s hilariously sincere gang-war-with-waterguns piece “Let it Rain,” Nicholas Clifford’s grand-prize winning tear jerker “We’ve All Been There,” and Craig Behenna’s Japan-themed flick “Suburban Samurai.”

Tropfest in Japan is part of Polson’s grand plan to move beyond Australia as he tries to feed what he sees as a “global appetite for short film.”

Tropfest in Japan takes place at Minato Mirai Grand Mall Park in Yokohama from 11:30 a.m. till 7 p.m. on May 31. The opening ceremony takes place at 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.tropfest.jp.