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.