Short and sweet


Staff member
Bored of typical films being shown in cinemas across the capital? Does the Abu Dhabi Film Festival pique your interest in alternative stories? If yes, then Tropfest Arabia is the perfect event for you.

The world's largest short film festival, which originated in Australia, has already successfully organised an international version in New York and now its founder, John Polson, has set his sights on the Middle East.

"I'm quite travel-obsessed with this region, I've always been fascinated about visiting but I never made it here before now…when visiting Abu Dhabi a few months ago, I was very excited to make this city the location for the inaugural Tropfest Arabia," he said.

"The reason why I chose Abu Dhabi was because of various critical factors. The country is garnering a lot of international interest…it's all about being at the perfect place at the perfect time," Polson added.

However, the festival founder noted that it took two years to finalise all the details to launch the Arabian branch of the festival.

"There are always challenges to organising everything because there's no festival quite like this. It's a big event that's for one night only and it's free…so it's very expensive to set up, encourage people to participate and raise awareness about it. But we've been going around the region doing just that in addition to finding the perfect judging panel," he said.

Seven minutes

Tropfest participants, who had to be citizens of the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, had to submit films which could not exceed seven minutes. They also have to conform to cultural, religious and political sensitivities.

The 12 shortlisted finalists were due to be announced yesterday. Their entries will be screened on November 4 and a winner will be chosen by a celebrity judging panel including Polson, Emirati filmmaker Nayla Al Khaja, Egyptian actor Ahmad Helmy, award-winning Lebanese director Nadine Labaki and actor Damon Gameau, winner of the 2011 Tropfest in Australia.

"I'm amazed by the number of films that have been submitted. We have over 40 films from Egypt, which shows just how excited everyone is about the festival. It will be interesting to see the reactions of both the judges and the public when they see them [on the Corniche]," Polson said.

"The great thing about this festival is that entrants aren't tied down by financial limitations compared to larger film festivals. In fact, one of our previous winners shot his film on a mobile phone," he added.

Looking back at over 20 years of success, Polson, an acclaimed actor and director in his own right, noted that it had been an amazing journey from screening at a small café in Sydney for 200 people to a turn-out of over 150,000 people, with celebrity supporters including Nicole Kidman, who has been a judge since 1996, and Russell Crowe.

"I never expected the festival to reach where it is today and my real hope for Tropfest Arabia is that it not only allows people to understand more about us and short films but also that the films from this festival as well as Australia and New York impact everyone, even if in just a small way, so that we begin to focus on what make us similar instead of the differences we are currently focusing on," he said.

  • Tropfest Arabia will take place on November 4 at the Abu Dhabi Corniche as part of the F1 Yasalam series.

  • Prizes include cash awards of $15,000 (Dh55,000), $10,000 (Dh37,000) and $5,000 (Dh18,000), a visit to Los Angeles for a week, a trip to Australia to take part in Tropfest 2012, an opportunity to work with established regional producers and directors and participate in training workshops delivered by twofour54 tadreeb (a media training academy in Abu Dhabi).