The Tropfest hash-tag is trending this morning as audiences take to Twitter to voice their opinion on controversial winning film Bamboozled

The short, which took home first prize last night in front of 15 other finalists, has been branded by many as homophobic and transphobic.

Directed by Matt Hardie (whose previous Tropfest entry Let it Rain took out the DSLR category at the festival held in February this year) Bamboozled follows the story of Pete, who bumps into his ex-girlfriend Helen one day at the bus stop. The twist is that Helen has since undergone a sex change and is now known as Harry.

In a media release sent out by Tropfest this morning, the remainder of the film is described as “a touching, thought-provoking and ultimately hilarious tale of love, sexuality and revenge with a twist of reality.”

However, not all agree.

““The homophobic rape joke film won #Tropfest … how nauseating. 🙁 #fail,” tweeted Jennifer Nash, @jennifernash2.

“I got about 2 minutes into the winning #Tropfest film before switching it off. Transgender is not a punchline,” wrote Patrick Magee, @Paddy_Magee.

Hardie is well aware of the Twitter backlash and says people are missing the point.

“I’m copping it hard from some people. I guess that just going to happen with such a controversial subject matter. But I’m not homophobic and I don’t think the movie is homophobic or transphobic. People are completely missing the point,” he tells IF. “The main character decides to sleep with the transgender person because he loves that person for who they are. But it’s not even a transgender character… it’s someone playing a trick on him. It’s more a comment on media and the extremes to which reality TV could go… It’s satirising.”

Hardie also notes people he has spoken to have been positive about the film, and that “anyone who spoke to me in person would probably see that it’s not meant to be with any malintent.”

Indeed, not all Twitter users had negative things to say about Hardie’s win.

“Very glad @MattHardie won #Tropfest. He should have won the last Tropfest with Let it Rain. Justice has been almost been served,” tweets Lexi J ‏@llexij, while Michael Drysdale @DrysdaleMichael ‏writes, “Ridiculous. #Tropfest winner Bamboozled wasnt homophobic it held a mirror up to society & showed how exploitative & insensitive our media is.”

For his win, Hardie has been awarded a new Toyota Corolla Levin ZR, a $10,000 cash prize (courtesy of Kennedy Miller Mitchell) and a trip to Los Angeles for a week of meetings with film executives, thanks to Motion Picture Association and Australian Screen Association.
He will also take home a Nikon D800 DSLR and $2,000 RRP worth of Nikon lenses.

The winning films were selected by a prestigious judging panel comprised of Hollywood producer Bruna Papandrea, award-winning writer/director Kriv Stenders, internationally-acclaimed director Robert Luketic, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Adam Elliot, Australian actor/director Nash Edgerton and award-winning Actor Susie Porter.

Second place went to Don Percy for his gross-out comedy Makeover, while third prize went to Tom Abood for Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense. Best Male Actor was awarded to both Matt Hardie and Aaron Tsindos for their performances in Bamboozled, and Best Female Actress went to 17 year-old Kaiya Jones for her portrayal in Coping.

Claude Gonzalez took home the Nikon DSLR category for his short Ariel, while the first ever Qantas Film Cadetship went to Martin Sharpe for Still Life.

Topfest22 was held for the first time this year at Sydney's Centennial Park after the festival outgrew its previous home at the Domain. 

The dates, too, have changed from February to December in an attempt to avoid rainy weather. 

The full-length controversial winning film Bamboozled can be viewed below. 

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15 Comments

  1. Quite aside from sending up the struggles of transgender people, the punch line of the film relies on the assumption that being discovered sleeping with a guy amounts to horrible embarrassment for the male protagonist. In the world of the film (contemporary Sydney) such embarrassment is of a scale that warrants coverage by a television crew as a prank. This is out of step with modern attitudes to sexuality and it’s understandable that people feel angry about the film. But it’s especially damaging that this message will be heard by queer youth amongst whom there is a disproportionately high suicide rate. Personally I’m disappointed that this project was allowed to compete and surprised that it got past selection by the likes of Adam Elliot and Robert Luketic.

  2. I’m an Australian filmmaker based in LA. I am appalled having just watched this year’s Tropfest winning film. Hey, they are usually pretty awful. But not usually offensive. The film is homophobic, makes a really off transgender gag and it’s remedial film making as well.

    Well done judges. I can’t imagine the low standard of film making if this was the winner, but if this was the best, I suggest you not award a prize in future.

    The filmmaker is doing the rounds defending his film as satire. Here’s a tip for you buddy. It’s not satire if you need to explain to your audience it’s satire.

    Equally shocking to me and something no one seems to be talking about is why on earth SBS are sponsoring and screening such offensive rubbish. More importantly if you take a look at Tropfests sponsors, http://tropfest.com/au/current-partners/, an awful lot of money comes from govt agencies. I think its time for them (and quite frankly Qantas) to get out.

    Tropfest, John Polson and the judges owe us an apology.

  3. I’m an Australian filmmaker based in LA. I am appalled having just watched this year’s Tropfest winning film. Hey, they are usually pretty awful. But not usually offensive. The film is homophobic, makes a really off transgender gag and it’s remedial film making as well.

    Well done judges. I can’t imagine the low standard of film making if this was the winner, but if this was the best, I suggest you not award a prize in future.

    The filmmaker is doing the rounds defending his film as satire. Here’s a tip for you buddy. It’s not satire if you need to explain to your audience it’s satire.

    Equally shocking to me and something no one seems to be talking about is why on earth SBS are sponsoring and screening such offensive rubbish. More importantly if you take a look at Tropfests sponsors, http://tropfest.com/au/current-partners/, an awful lot of money comes from govt agencies. I think its time for them (and quite frankly Qantas) to get out.

    Tropfest, John Polson and the judges owe us an apology.

  4. I’ve been a film and TV director for 40 years. Having watched Bamboozled all I can say the winner must have been a close friend of John Polson because the production, especially the ending is not only offensive, downright stupid but also incapable of closer examination.
    Why do we need a film festival supported by Qantas when all we do is serve up dross? Both Qantas and John Polson would be well advised to get out of this game. This festival has gone past its use-by date.

  5. I think it is Matt Hardie who is actually missing the point. His response here just shows up his excruciating naiveté. I believe that if the minority group that the work is portraying is offended and outraged by the content of the work, then that is the best measure that the work is not succeeding at satirising intolerance but perpetuating it.

  6. Way to go to reinforce the perception that to win Tropfest
    you’d best pump out a bogan comedy crowd pleaser.

    Short (no pun intended) of Ariel and Still Life, you’d be lucky to see any of those other entries accepted elsewhere.

    You also have to wonder how the audiences would vote if they knew some of the finalists were literally penniless students competing against seasoned directors and producers with healthy incomes and industry contacts galore.

    We should be providing funding to encourage young film makers to enter their films in international competitions instead of propping up a marketing machine to keep a small PR army employed.

    And Tropfest have the gaul to demand the rights to the films for years…utterly disgusting. Time for a clean out.

  7. By accident I started watching Tropfest, not for tropfest but because I watch SBS more than most any other channel. I think it’s become an insiders joke that Nash Edgerton still hangs around Tropfest like a bad smell. Mates with Polson (calling him his father) is showing his attitude toward the ongoing help that polson gives to his mates. Tropfest represents everything that is bad about this industry. It’s not about which film is best film but about who’s mates with who. Was way back when and it is now.

    Get Edgerton pissed one night and listen to him spew out truths about how winners are picked at Tropfest. I was floored to see him ‘JUDGE’ this year. He’s a stunt person… nothing more. Suse Porter, maybe you could probably give Tropfest a miss too honey. Could the organisers not hear the crowd when introducing the ‘CELEBRITY GUESTS’. All over I’m afraid. I won’t go into how insulted I was with the winning film as it was a shoe in (hey Nash).

  8. As a transgender person I found this film extremely offensive. Matt Hardie should be ashamed of himself if he thinks it’s satire to ridicule both transgenderism and homosexuality. We have extremely high rates of suicide in our community, I myself I have lost a number of friends, and this film is just so insensitive.
    I’ve worked hard for my community to create social change that’s taken real courage and risk. I had the honor with the production of the documentary Queen of the Desert to work with director Alex Kelly. She was always so diligent in empowering the subjects of her story, constantly seeking guidance and approval from both myself and the Indigenous community members of Areyonga. Perhaps Hardie needed to do further research and consultation rather than just go for a cheap laugh. He needs to step up and accept his mistakes with a formal apology. However his responses so far are arrogant and misguided.
    As a film maker his actions show that he is immature and does not take responsibility for his creations. I hope the film industry learns to take greater care and undo the damage this film has done!

  9. This film is neither homophobic nor transphobic.

    The real issue here involves people who are far too easily-offended and need to restrain themselves, together with embittered Tropfest entrants who haven’t made the cut and a publication blowing petty opinions out of proportion.

  10. I am an expat working in script development in London and my god this is the worse thing that could happen for Australian culture overseas. Tony Abbott is a diplomatic and international relations disaster, asylum seeking, climate denial, a sexist backlash against our first female PM and now we remind everyone being gay is bad, perverse and worthy of punishment. It is not satire if the director has to explain it, it is not satire if attacks the victim of media portrayal, it is cowardly and his attempts at retrospective explanation are a poor attempt covering for what was clearly always meant to be a one note short film, based on a twist ending.

  11. I’m a film editor in Munich. A major filmmaking error, to my mind, is that the film doesn’t prepare the audience in any way for the final scene. There’s no sense that that the two men are being observed as the evening plays out (as they would have been for reality TV), no sense that what we’re seeing isn’t the way things really are and that there is an evil presence within the film. Til the men wake up, the film is a sorta sweet romantic comedy (I did wonder why a woman would become a man and then bed other men… but that’s beside the point). In the final scene the film switches genre and becomes an overacted and rather lumpy satire. I don’t think the problem is homo- or transphobia, just confused filmmaking. How did it win?

  12. I really enjoyed the film and the whole of Tropfest which judging from the huge crowds that turn up every year is what plenty of people feel. Personally I found the jokes jam packed and the acting well timed in mockery of the one liners in a lot of rom com films, backed up with hilarious new anecdotes like ‘i went for the mediterranean wash’. As the main character was very accepting of his ex-girlfriend’s sex change I don’t see how the film was homophobic. I get that people hear the word ‘sex change’ and instantly decide they must be being persecuted, but actually i agree with a lot of people’s comments on this film in that the bad guys at the end were homophobic, not the main character. Tropfest is a fantastic day out and the fact that this film has attracted so many haters just makes it all the more interesting. I’m not homophobic or transphobic in the slightest and this film was very nicely put together in my eyes I don’t need a film to be about ‘nice things’ for me to watch it.

  13. I find tropfest’s other winners offensively sentimental when solid pieces like “Being Carl Williams” unjustly took second place. Bamboozled had the twists the comedy and the hilarity. Congrats Matt Hardie and team.

  14. OMG what rubbish. This so called “winner” is so poorly put together that it makes us in the industry throw our hands up. Listen mate, I don’t care who your mates are in Tropfest, a d how this poor example of film making won, it’s rubbish, it’s poorly written and frankly not worth putting a name to. Other contenders this year walked all over Bamboozled. QANTAS better think long and hard about next years sponsorship.

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