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Mel Gibson joins Tropfest judging panel

Hoping to give an emerging Australian filmmaker their big break at Tropfest, the revived short film festival has announced the Oscar-winner will be one of this year’s judges.

Gibson will join a panel including The Mentalist star Simon Baker (currently developing the Tim Winton adaptation Breath), Rebecca Gibney (Packed to the Rafters and Wanted), iconic cinematographer Don McAlpine (Moulin Rouge!, Predator), and director Jocelyn Moorhouse (The Dressmaker).

The actor/director says he’s thrilled at the opportunity to judge Tropfest on Sunday 14 February.

“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,” Gibson said in a statement on Thursday.

“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.”

Gibson recently worked with another Australian emerging director, Beth Armstrong, during production on his Australian-shot film Hacksaw Ridge. A NIDA graduate, Gibson initially found success starring in George Miller’s 1979 dystopian movie Mad Max and forged a successful career as an actor in Hollywood before also turning his hand to directing. Gibson‘s other directing credits include Academy Award-winning BraveheartThe Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto.

Mel Gibson on the set of Hacksaw Ridge

Tropfest Founder and Director John Polson says it’s an honour to have Gibson on board.

“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,” he said. “The 16 finalist filmmakers, as well as Australian audiences, are in for a huge treat.”

It’s another win for Tropfest after a dark period late last year, when it was announced the short film festival had been cancelled allegedly due to mishandled funds. Sponsor CGU Insurance came on board as partner and the new date for this year – Valentine’s Day – was revealed.

A free live event will take place at Sydney’s Centennial Parklands and SBS 2 will broadcast the film festival from 9pm AEDT, as well as setting up a live stream on sbs.com.au/movies/tropfest.

Of the 16 finalists, the winner of the Tropfest fruit trophy cup will receive $10,000 cash; a networking trip to Los Angeles; a Nikon DSLR camera with lenses and accessories; and a Hyundai SUV for a year.

Tropfest is also supported by Destination NSW, Screen NSW and major partners Screen Australia, Qantas, Nikon, Centennial Parklands, SBS 2, and Nova 96.9.

Visit tropfest.com.au for more information.