With just under a month before Tropfest was due to begin for 2015, its founder and director John Polson has been forced to cancel the event due to a dispute with the festivals management company. In which Polson describes as a “well into six figures” hole in funding.

This was the 24th year of the festival, which was due to begin on December 6th at Sydney’s Centennial Park and beamed across the nation via an SBS2 live broudcast.

Hollywood actress Susan Sarandan had agreed to be part of the judging panel at this year’s fest, with judges at previous events including Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe, Toni Collette, Geoffrey Rush, Baz Luhrmann, George Miller, Keanu Reeves, Samuel L. Jackson, John Woo and Ewan McGregor.

Tropfest 2012 Celebrity Judges.

Tropfest 2012 Celebrity Judges, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchet, Geoffrey Rush and Toni Collette.

Polson, who works as an Executive Producer of the tv series Elementary, said he had begun legal action with the management company, which he declined to name when talking to SMH. He said it was difficult to avoid concluding that  “a terrible and irresponsible mismanagement” has taken place over the festival’s funds.

“Suddenly, wham, we’ve got this huge hole,” Polson said.

“I’m not suggesting there’s any impropriety here, I honestly don’t know. The best I can say now is mismanagement. It’s hard to avoid ‘mismanagement’ if you’re not even getting straight answers about what the situation is.”

Polson describes himself as feeling numb about the situation and is concerned about the festival’s future.

“Can it come back? I honestly don’t know,” he said. “It’s like being in a bad dream. This is 23 years of work. It’s a stunning, shocking blow, with really no hint of what was to come.”

Tropfest director John Polson with Tropfest 2013, Winners Matt Hardy and Aaron Tsindos.

Tropfest director John Polson with Tropfest 2013, Winners Matt Hardy and Aaron Tsindos.

This year’s finalist have yet to be formally announced, but at the time of writing friends of Video&Filmmaker whose films were selected finalists, had yet to be told about the cancellation. They seem to have found out in the same manner as the rest of the world.

“I feel terrible for the filmmakers,” Polson said. “I feel terrible for the audiences.

“It’s terrible for the sponsors. And I think it’s terrible for anybody who cares about Australian film and certainly the grassroots, emerging end of Australian film because, right now, our future is up in the air. I really don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The event which began in at Sydney’s Tropicana cafe in 1993, soon expanded across the world to include an international Vine comp, a Juniors comp and other Tropfest events in Asia, Nth America, the Middle East and New Zealand.

“This is about the Tropfest brand being vulnerable but my main concern has always been Australia. That’s where it started. That’s where it’s biggest …

“Of course, I want those to exist but I almost don’t want them to continue without Australia because it’s like the tail wagging the dog. It’s such an Australian event.”

Polson released a statement on Tropfest’s Facebook page yesterday, which reads as follows:

“It is devastating for me to announce today that Tropfest will not be taking place as scheduled in Centennial Park this year. In the past week or so, I have been made aware that the company contracted to raise the funding and administer the Tropfest event is unable to move forward for financial reasons. Despite a challenging sponsorship climate, Tropfest has done reasonably well in attracting support this year; however, to my great surprise, the management company has informed us that it is unable to proceed.

“It goes without saying that this announcement is the most difficult one I’ve made in Tropfest’s 23 year history. My heart goes out to this year’s 16 filmmaking finalists, to our incredible list of sponsors and partners, and of course to our loyal and beloved audience. It is too early to tell what has actually happened here, although it is hard to avoid concluding there has been a terrible and irresponsible mismanagement of Tropfest funds. I and others will be spending the coming weeks and months investigating what has transpired.

“In the meantime, I ask all of Tropfest’s many supporters to bear with us while we figure out how we can rebound from this disaster. Now more than ever this unique Australian cultural event needs your patience and support.”

V&F have been official sponsors of Tropfest for a number of years and we sincerely hope to continue supporting the event for many years to come.

Tropfest festival goers, watching films at Sydney's Centennial Park (image: courtesy of Tropfest).

Tropfest festival goers, watching films at Sydney’s Centennial Park (image: courtesy of Tropfest).


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