Monday, December 19, 2011


“ARABIA! Say hello to Tropfest, we’re here to stay,” boomed John Polson, as he rang in the first in a series of global events, tying in with the world’s biggest short film festival’s 20th anniversary in 2012. The crowd roared back approval.

The atmosphere on the beach in Abu Dhabi was electric, with well over the expected 4000 locals lapping up the 12 Arab selections that followed. All were highly imaginative yet, surprisingly, without political overtones.

“There’s a lot of coverage of the whole political thing, so I wanted to get away from that,” Iraq’s Al Jabbouri told Empire, after his animated eco short FLOCK OF STARS snagged the top gong. “I focused on the environment to create awareness. It’s an international, global concern.”

Polson agreed, noting that none of the 100 films entered had a particularly political edge to them. The film and television producer and director, now based in Brooklyn, was in the Gulf to ensure the much buzzed-about event went off without a hitch.

“The goal is to have six or eight events happening around the world, every couple of months,” Polson explained. “To have a global community that’s watching short films, on the cutting edge of quality. Hopefully, these filmmakers will go on to have big careers. That’s the point of it all.”


1. The first film to screen is not Arabian! Tropfest’s 2011 winner Damon Gateau is greeted like a hero, before his ANIMAL BEATBOX screens to a rock-star reception.

2. Founder John Polson attempts to say “Welcome to Tropfest Arabia” in Arabic. The crowd whoops their delight, regardless.

3. The half-time musical mélange of local reality stars from Star Academy features a bizarre finale of Venga Boys-type muzak, capped by a cover of Gloria Gaynor’s "I Will Survive".

4. Local female filmmaker, Lubna Saeed Al Amoodi, snags runner-up prize for her inventive short SMILE: in which a man must negotiate with an electronic door lock.

5. The number ‘two’ is announced as the 2012 signature item. After this year’s ‘star’, what else could it be?

First published in Empire Australasia.


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