Photo: Indi Samarajiva, Creative Commons.

The first ever Southeast Asia edition of Tropfest will be held in George Town, Penang, on 25 January.

Started by John Polson, Tropfest is the world’s largest short film festival, which started in Sydney 20 years ago. The first festival attracted 200 people, but today it attracts more than 150,000 people in a single event.

While Tropfest has been held in cities around the world, this is the first time it will come to Southeast Asia.

Tropfest SEA will screen its 12 selected films (out of 184 entries submitted from around the region). Each film is under seven minutes long and includes rice in some way as this year’s signature festival trademark. Musical performances and discussions with the directions and curators are also included in the evening’s line up.

The films will be screened publicly and judged by a panel of 11. The grand prize is a cash award of USD10,00 and a trip to Los Angeles.

The aim of Tropfest SEA to is contribute to the film industry in ASEAN, give opportunities, and showcase the talent found in the region. The 12 finalists at Tropfest SEA represent filmmakers from Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Cambodia. In the run-up to Tropfest, there will be other screenings of Southeast Asian films during 20-22 January.

Tropfest is known for prioritising storylines over production values in its selection. The festival’s name became ensnared in controversy last month when Australian Tropfest winner, Matt Hardie, was accused of homophobia in his film’s plot.

Jessie Marie LaDouceur

Tropfest SEA begins at 5.30pm on 25 January at the Esplanade, George Town, Penang. It’s free to attend, but registration is required.

CORRECTION: Our original report stated that 14 films would be screened. This has been amended to 12. (09/01/2013).