Bryant Park's New Film Festival an Adventure

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Short film festival, Tropfest, arrives with great attention

It's become a park staple by now- every Monday throughout the summer a classic movie is shown in front of Bryant Park's iconic lawn. From Psycho to Wizard of Oz to Indiana Jones, the midtown cinematic summer series continues to provide us a big screen to see the Alfred Hitchcocks, the George Lucases, and the Humphrey Bogarts of Hollywood. And we don't complain. I, personally, love it. I go almost every Monday.

This weekend, though, was a refreshing new taste of cinema. Instead of the classics that made what movies are today, the park teamed up with Hugh Jackman (who is as good a host as he is an actor) to deliver terse, snappy, identifiable short films to a Saturday-evening crowd.

The quirky Australian-based Tropfest, self-dubbed "the world's largest short film festival," had its inaugural New York edition this weekend, and served as a spot for casual and fervent moviegoers as well as the fest's star-studded judge panel.

And as far as someone who has attended prior Tropfests before, this year's debut was a success.

"I was planning (on coming), because I'm from Sydney," said Nicole? from Sydney. "I had been to one in Sydney, and (in New York) there's a lot of people? but it's the same kind of vibe."

"She invited me," echoed Luke, speaking about his Australian companion. "I had no idea what it was but I came and was pleasantly surprised, I really enjoyed it."

"Looking for the strength of the idea, rather than slickness or technical merit," the festival prides itself in giving opportunities to aspiring and news filmmakers. It "whittles" a pool of hundreds of entries down to eight, and awards $20,000 to the film the celebrity panel -this Tropfest featured Bridemaids's Rose Byrne, 30 Rock's Judah Friedlander, Dark Horse's Ted Hope, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Scott Foundas- deems best at the end of the night. According to Jackman's preface, and the festival's site, there are only a few restrictions regarding film production. The only rules are that films cannot exceed seven minutes and must include a TSI- the Tropfest Signature Item.

(This year's New York TSI, fittingly, was a bagel. All films, oddly enough, had a bagel make a cameo at one point in the film (see above: quirky).)

It turns out, over 10,000 people, a packed house by Bryant Park standards, were interested enough to attend the fest and take a peak at the country's eight best short films. It seems they weren't disappointed.

"It was a spur of the moment thing for me, and I'm glad I came," said Mike, who thought Elvis: The Lonely Hunter of Circle Beach should have won. "I enjoyed the films immensely, and yeah I'll definitely be coming back for next year.

The fest's raconteurs used their formatting freedom and time restrictions as a prompt for some interesting narration and ideas. Despite an anacoluthic Killer Bagels from Outerspace, films were hilarious (Elvis), intense (Elevator), uplifting (Emptys), and extremely clever (The Break-Up Tour).

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One NY Press writer is a bit confounded that The Break-Up Tour didn't win the grand prize.

After all eight contestants were shown -and this after a segment that showed the best movies from prior Tropfests- the judging panel gave first-place prize to Emptys, which is a quick dive into the world of the country's impecunious bottle collectors.

Tropfest will make its rounds around the globe throughout before returning to New York with 16 finalists next year, stopping in Las Vegas, Arabia, New Zealand, China, India, Paris, and it's home, Australia. And while it continues to grow, it will also become smaller.

[TropfestMicro is a new branch of the fest, and is a competition featuring super-short, 70-second films.

P.S. If you're interested in entering next year's New York contest, the TSI is "bridge", with no distinction between the game, and the traffic-bearing structure.

--Nick Gallinelli

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