The Tropfest short film festival is here again and SBS co-host Marc Fennell reckons the works will be a cut above his first entry
Lighter, tighter, funnier and faster is how Marc Fennell reckons coverage of this year’s Tropfest short film festival will go. Controversy, he can live without.
Last year’s winning film, Bamboozled, was accused by some of homophobia and transphobia. While others defended the film, Fennell, who co-hosts SBS2’s coverage, wasn’t a fan.
“It’s one thing to be controversial for controversy’s sake,” he says. “It’s another thing to be controversial in a manner that makes a certain segment of the audience feel bad about themselves. That was what that film did. I kind of kept my mouth shut at the time as host, but I think enough time has passed.
“I don’t think it was made (to be) malicious. But I completely understand why a lot of people found it offensive and I’m kind of inclined to agree. If you’re framing transgender people, that’s really hurtful. I’m not having a go at those guys, but it’s not the film I would have picked.”
At only 29, Fennell has already been a film critic at SBS and the ABC for a decade. Looking ahead to the 23rd Tropfest, a film competition founded by Aussie actor John Polson, he recalls his earliest foray into filmmaking, something he swears he has gotten out of his system.
“In 1999, I would have been about 14 or 15, I directed what could have been the world’s worst Tropfest film,” he says, laughing. “I don’t have a copy of it. I know that it involves ants, and somebody drinking milk and it was dreadful.”
“I actually live in genuine fear that somebody at the office is going to go, ‘We’ve found it, we found that film’. It wasn’t short-listed. I don’t think it was long-listed. So that would be my first experience of Tropfest. I did go on to enter other films which were less embarrassing, before I discovered the thing I love doing is talking about films, more than making films.”
With co-hosts Jeanette Francis and Adam Spencer, Fennell says this year’s live coverage will rely on more preproduced packages than in previous years.
“When you’re at the live event, you’re there with friends, having a picnic and it’s awesome. From a TV point of view, that’s actually quite boring. It is a very relaxed kind of approach to film, it’s not the Oscars with lots of dresses that require Hollywood tape. Although I will be wearing Hollywood tape.
“We want it to be faster and cheekier. It can be made fun of, and we make fun of it in a warm and loving way.”
Marc Fennell before the Tropfest Australia 2014 finalist announcement at the Sydney Opera House.