From humble beginnings at Sydney’s Tropicana Café over 20 years ago, Tropfest has grown from a casual screening for cast and crew to becoming the largest annual short film festival in the world. Not too shabby, eh? Conceived by award-winning director John Polson, the platform serves as an institution for innovative filmmakers and budding actors to push boundaries and bring fresh, challenging ideas to film each year. Marking its second year in our waters, Tropfest South East Asia returns with new competitors and a new concept to frame this year’s films, with 2015’s Tropfest Signature Item (TSI) being the ‘Wheel’.
But don’t be surprised if it’s not all amateurs hitting the ground running – after all, this is the same festival that had Aussie stars Sam Worthington (Avatar) and Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby) showing off their acting chops before basking under the bright lights of Hollywood. This year, award-winning cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, jumps on board to host the festival. Fittingly, the Australian-born filmmaker made his name in Asia (quite literally, assuming the Chinese name of Du Ke Feng), and is best known for his string of films under the direction of Wong Kar-wai – including award ceremony favourites In the Mood for Love, 2046 and Chungking Express – before branching into Hollywood cinema with titles such as Hero and Lady In The Water.
Before establishing himself in film, Doyle had already rooted himself in Asia with stints as an oil-driller in India and having practiced traditional Chinese medicine in Thailand. With a solid understanding of the region and its people, the famed filmmaker is able to build human connections with his audiences. Now having over 50 awards under his belt, it’s safe to assume the filmmaker is running out of space in his trophy case(s).
In addition to hosting Tropfest South East Asia 2015, Doyle will also grace the film’s official forum, Roughcut, where audiences and filmmakers alike have the chance to sit in on presentations, casual chit-chat and Q&A sessions with a stellar industry panel, including the likes of Teng Lee Yein, Mike Ellis, and our very own Kumar.
Roughcut will take place on Saturday, 31 January at Pinang Ballroom, Hotel Jen; followed by the world premiere of the Tropfest South East Asia 2015 finalists’ films on Sunday, 1 February at The Esplanade, Penang. For more information on these events, visit tropfest.com/sea.