TropFest 2014: Top 5 Short Films

By Cherie Wheeler

Sydneysiders may have been ducking for cover amid thunderous storms at the outdoor screening of TropFest this past weekend, but in Perth, Western Australia, viewers were graced with a beautiful evening with mild conditions for viewing one of Australia’s most prestigious short film festivals.

Even though only one film from Western Australia managed to reach the finals, audiences in the West turned out to the Perth Cultural Centre, the Moonlight Cinemas, and an outdoor theatre in Midland to check out the sixteen short films vying for the title of winner of TropFest 2014.

Every year the festival follows a particular theme in which all of the entrants must utilise a “signature item” in some way. The entire narrative may be based around this item, or it may be incorporated into the film in a more subtle way, but this year, all of the films had to feature a mirror.

This year’s very deserving winner was the comical Granny Smith, directed by emerging filmmaker Julian Lucas, and overall, this year’s finalists were of a much higher caliber than the works selected in the 2013 competition.

As much as we would love to overview all sixteen films, we’ve decided to present you with our favourites from the night with a list of our top 5. So without any further ado, and in no particular order, here’s the best of TropFest 2014.

1. Evil Mexican Child
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Let’s be honest; with a title like this, how could this be anything but an awesome little film? Directed by regular TropFest finalist Michael Noonan, this short film follows a married couple who encounter an abandoned little boy wandering throughout the deserts of Mexico. The couple take the boy home with them, and discover his disturbing ability to turn his violent drawings into a reality.

I have no idea where this film was shot, but I was seriously impressed by the efforts made to create this world set in rural Mexico. The rustic production design is incredibly authentic, as is the flawless Spanish spoken by the actors. Conceptually, Evil Mexican Child seems like a standard horror film, but it is actually quite comical, in a dark and twisted sort of way.


2. Fixed
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The lone WA finalist Fixed is a tale of childhood innocence in which a little girl becomes determined to get the family dog pregnant, despite her lack of expertise in this area. Starring Amara Harnisch, this short film is co-directed by Burleigh Smith and Codey Wilson.

This is such a simple concept that has been perfectly executed, and Harnisch delivers a very strong performance for such a young actress. Add in a cute dog, and some crude jokes, and you have a true crowd pleaser on your hands.


3. A Lady and A Robot
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In a behind the scenes preview package, director Toby Morris intimated his affection for British dramas set in the 19th century, and his passion for the era certainly comes across in this short film. As the title suggests, A Lady and A Robot revolves around the love story between an Aristocratic woman, and the family butler, who just happens to be a clumsy, rule abiding robot.

The script is exceptionally well written, particularly the dialogue, which remains true to the time in which the film is set, even though the relationship between the two main characters is utterly preposterous. Much like Evil Mexican Child, this film includes some remarkable production design work, and all of the performances are top notch as well.


4. Twisted
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If Scott Pilgrim Vs The World involved characters battling one another with balloon animals, and other inflatable creations, then this is exactly what it would look like. In Stuart Bowen’s Twisted two guys fight for the heart of a pretty girl through an epic balloon making challenge.

It may be completely bizarre, but Twisted finds itself a place in my top five due to some very slick editing, and some mind blowing special effects. The balloon creations featured in this short film are unlike anything I have ever seen before, and the film transitions seamlessly between the construction of each new balloon artwork.


5. Granny Smith
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Lucky last is the winner of TropFest 2014; Granny Smith starring Jack White, Sam Watkins and Steve Vizard. Everyone is guilty of chucking a sickie to avoid going to work, but Paul (White) takes this to a whole new level when he pretends that his grandmother has passed away, and invites his colleagues to the funeral of a complete stranger, all in the name of getting a few days off.

This is Australian humour at it’s very best, and there’s not really much more to say than that. I can pretty much guarantee that you will enjoy this film, and its relatable subject matter, and unlike the rather contrived comedy that won last year’s competition, Granny Smith is far more subtle in its bid for laughs.


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