Looks like Tropfest has managed to go from bust to Braveheart.
The short film festival -- proudly touted as the world's largest -- has announced Academy Award winner Mel Gibson will join the already prestigious judging panel at the February 14 event to be held in Sydney's Centennial Park. Other panelists include Simon Baker ('The Mentalist'), Rebecca Gibney ('Packed to the Rafters', 'Wanted), cinematographer Don McAlpine ('Moulin Rouge!') and director Jocelyn Moorhouse ('The Dressmaker').
Fans of the festival were shocked last year when Tropfest founder and director John Polson announced the event -- scheduled to take place on December 6 -- would not be going ahead due to a "terrible and irresponsible management of Tropfest funds".
The cancellation prompted many to question the long term future of the festival (which had already suffered its fair share of trials and tribulations since its inception in 1993) and what this would mean for emerging Australian filmmakers.
However, the potentially doomed festival was thrown a lifeline by CGU Insurance, whose sponsorship has allowed Tropfest to go ahead on Sunday, 14 February, 2016.
The involvement of Gibson, who is in Australia directing a World War II film titled 'Hacksaw Ridge', will no doubt further bolster the festival keen to prove it still has longevity.
“I’m really thrilled to be in Sydney, and to have been invited to judge Tropfest,” Gibson said in a statement.
"I know what it’s like to be starting out in this industry, in Australia, and what a big difference a break can make to a career. Tropfest has been doing an incredible job over the last 23 years as a platform for young filmmakers, and I’m absolutely delighted to support the great work Tropfest is doing."
“This is an enormous honour,” Polson said. “Mel is one of Australia’s most prolific and talented actors, as well as an Academy Award winning director. It doesn’t get better than this. The 16 finalist filmmakers, as well as Australian audiences, are in for a huge treat,” he said.
Along with the free, live event at Sydney’s Centennial Parklands, Tropfest events will be held at venues across Australia.
SBS 2 will also screen the festival from 9pm AEDT, as well as live streaming the event online.
The winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize as well as a trip to Los Angeles for a week of meetings with industry executives, a Hyundai Tucson for a year, and a Nikon D800 plus lenses and accessories.
In addition to new partner, CGU Insurance, Tropfest is supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW and Screen NSW; as well as returning major partners Qantas, Nikon, Centennial Parklands, SBS 2, Screen Australia, and Nova 96.9.