Volume 20 Issue 18 | September 14 - 20, 2007


Tropfest@Tribeca 2007
Sunday, September 23
World Financial Center Plaza
Music at 5 p.m., films from 8-10 p.m.
Rain or shine

Courtesy Tribeca Film Festival

Tropfest in Sydney, Australia. The Aussie short film festival now has a NY counterpart, and comes to the World Financial Center Plaza next Sunday.

Down Under film festival premieres Downtown

By Rania Richardson

“Follow the puggle,” says Paola Freccero, referring to the pug/beagle mix that will accompany her to Tropfest@Tribeca, the free outdoor event on Sunday, September 23 at the World Financial Center. Both New Yorkers and their dogs are welcome to the festival of music and short films that will take place under the stars, on the cusp of the fall season.

As senior vice president of Tribeca Enterprises, Freccero is charged with “bringing the film festival experience year-round.” Last year during the organization’s Tribeca Film Festival, the Australian-based Tropfest made its U.S. debut. Following its success, it is now a stand-alone event in Lower Manhattan, as well as Down Under.

The 16 films to be showcased at the upcoming Tropfest@Tribeca had to meet competition requirements that include being a maximum of seven minutes in length, making their world premiere, and incorporating a signature item announced six months prior to the festival. This year’s item is “a slice” and is interpreted in radically different ways — from a piece of pizza to an amputation. Among previous years’ items are an umbrella, a match, a bug, chopsticks, and a kiss.

Tropfest@Tribeca received 161 submissions from around the world, but 10 of the 16 selections are from New York City. Virtually every filmmaker in the lineup boasts a background in film or the performing arts, including 28-year-old filmmaker Belinda King, who will be traveling outside her native Australia for the first time to attend with her short, “The Picnic.”

“I like writing about darker things like jealousy and revenge,” she said in a telephone conversation from her home in Marrickville, a Sydney suburb she describes as “a bit daggy,” a slang term meaning unfashionable. “I made this film a comedy about how strange people can be when they get jealous,” she added.

In 2006, King was a Tropfest finalist in Australia and won the best actress award for “The Sister,” which she wrote, directed and starred in. “The version of Tropfest in Sydney is huge and very exciting. It’s a ‘calendar event,’ with tens of thousands in the park, called the Domain, right in the heart of the city. It’s a massive park next to the botanical garden,” she explained. “Everyone who has ever thought of making films jumps on board to make one. It’s an excellent platform, so everyone comes out of the woodwork for it,” she said.

Actor/director John Polson initiated the event in the early 1990s at the Tropicana Caffe in Sydney, where a screening of a short film on a blank wall attracted an unexpected crowd of hundreds. When Polson directed Tribeca’s Robert De Niro in the 2005 thriller “Hide and Seek,” he shared his idea for the festival.

Tropfest@Tribeca will close with jurors Griffin Dunne (“Fierce People,” “After Hours”) Rose Byrne (“28 Weeks Later,” “Marie Antoinette”) and Bennett Miller (“Capote,” “The Cruise”) handing out prizes, including the best filmmaker award of $10,000 and a trip for two to Australia.  

As with the Tribeca Film Festival and its founding sponsor, American Express, Tropfest@Tribeca vigorously showcases its funder, Target. Cash for the top prize, which is named the “Target Filmmaker Award,” is courtesy of the chain retailer. Target will also provide paddles to vote for an audience-favorite film, as well as ponchos in case of inclement weather.

Indie rock music from Second Dan, Haunt, and DJ Shorty, will precede the films. There will be general seating, a VIP seating section, and plenty of space for picnic blankets.

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