SHORT FILMS | Tropfest goes west

On the world stage: Expect to see similar Tropfest crowds to pack Parramatta Park on February 11.
On the world stage: Expect to see similar Tropfest crowds to pack Parramatta Park on February 11.

The world’s biggest short-film festival opens in Parramatta for the first time on Friday.

I think we’ll see a coming together of audiences from the eastern and western suburbs.

Suellen Fitzgerald

Parramatta Park is the new home of Tropfest for the next three years.

Now in its 25th year, the festival kicks off on The Crescent on February 10 with Trop Junior and a screening of Australian family classic Babe, produced by Tropfest board member George Miller.

Tropfest will be held in the Cattle Paddocks the next night with live music and outdoor bars. It’s on a Saturday night for the first time to attract broader audiences.

The 24 previous Tropfest winners will be screened along with this year’s finalists.

“It shows how important the park is in the future of Parramatta,” Parramatta Park Trust executive director Suellen Fitzgerald said.

“It’s the perfect location for Tropfest. It’s the beginning of real enrichment of arts and culture in western Sydney, which is in line with the state government’s policy. The park is already on the international map because it’s a world heritage site. But what Tropfest does is enrich and expand the park’s world reputation into arts and culture.”

Up to 100,000 packed Tropfest’s former home at The Domain, but Ms Fitzgerald was not sure if this year would rival previous figures.

“It’s a hard thing to answer because this is the first time it’s been in Parramatta,” she said. “We’re expecting at least 30,000 but there’s plenty of room. The Cattle Paddocks have a capacity for 70,000.”

She’s particularly excited about the ninth Trop Junior for budding filmmakers.

“We’ll get an early heads-up on the future of Australian filmmaking,” she said.

Ms Fitzgerald expects visitors from all across Sydney.

“People will definitely travel – it’s less than 30 minutes by train from Central and a 10 minute walk to Parramatta Park,” she said.

“There’s a potential audience in western Sydney of more than two million. I think we’ll see a coming together of audiences from the eastern and western suburbs.”

Around 200 people attended the inaugural Tropfest in a Kings Cross cafe in 1993. 

It has since launched the careers of some of Australia’s biggest film stars, including Sam Worthington, Joel Edgerton and Rebel Wilson.

Previous judges included Will Smith, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Toni Colette and Ewan McGregor. Rose Byrne heads this year’s jury.

Tropfest was cancelled in late 2015 before it was resurrected by new sponsors.

The signature item for this year’s Tropfest is a pineapple. For the first time, half of this year’s 16 finalists are women.

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