THIS year’s winner of the Tropfest Film Festival has been widely panned for being transphobic as well as offensive to gay men after screening to thousands of moviegoers at Sydney’s Centennial Park last night.
A leading film critic, Crikey’s Luke Buckmaster, has blasted the film, telling the Star Observer he has been left deeply disturbed by the winning entry on a number of fronts.
“I think it’s disturbing that somebody would make this. I think it’s disturbing that the festival would select this and I think it’s disturbing that the judges would decide to award this film,” he said.
“A man sleeping with another man is not a punchline. Transgender people are not punchlines. I have no idea where these guys have seen the merit in this film.”
Matt Hardie wrote and performed in Bamboozled, which took out the top prize and pocketed him a $10,000 prize as well as a new car and a trip to Los Angeles for a week of meetings with film executives.
The film centred around a sex change, to reflect this year’s Tropfest signature item of change, and involved Hardie’s character bumping into an old girlfriend who was now apparently male. The pair end up sleeping together but it is then revealed by film’s end that Hardie’s character had sex with a man set up to play a role by his ex-girlfriend as part of a reality television show.
Transgender advocate Sally Goldner, who is also an occasional stand-up comic, said it was correct for the film’s ‘comedic merit’ to be criticised.
“I would think it is surely possible to critique reality TV in a way that involves humour without stereotyping groups or possibly putting groups at any greater risk than they already face,” she said.
“If we are asking organisations such as the AFL to take social responsibility in areas such as transgender, I think we are entitled to ask Tropfest and filmmakers to do the same.
“Certainly, freedom of opinion and artistic expression are important in society. I think human life and human dignity matter even more – maybe most of all.”
Notable Twitter users like The Guardian’s Greg Jericho, transgender journalist Kate Doak as well as Buckmaster all savaged the film upon seeing it as highly offensive to the LGBTI community and embarrassing to Tropfest.
“The winning #Tropfest film hasn’t been accused of plagiarism, for a change. This one is just homophobic,” Buckmaster tweeted.
“Oh geez, just saw the #tropfest winner. I feel embarrassed for having seen it,” Jericho stated.
“Given that the extremely transphobic and homophobic film #bamboozled won, I think that the #Tropfest judges were pretty lame,” Doak said.
YouTube users have also panned the film, with more thumbs down rather than thumbs up.
“So this is offensive. What the fuck. I don’t find this clever or intelligent, I just find it to be poking fun at the queer community,” YouTube user Jack Stenson wrote.
“It frames homosexuality as something to be laughed at, holds that you ‘just decide’ to be trans, and is just plain ignorant where sexuality is concerned. Poor work.”
Author and novelist Will Kostakis was another to give the film a searing critique.
“Some are defending the film, saying it’s just a joke. And that’s exactly the problem, there’s nothing particularly funny about being intimate with someone of the same gender,” Kostakis wrote on his blog.
“That, in and of itself, is not humorous. And neither is shaming them for it. That’s othering anyone who doesn’t identify as heterosexual, pointing at them and laughing (literally, in this case).
“If selecting the film as one of 16 finalists wasn’t — wait for it — bamboozling enough, it went on to win.”
Hardie and his co-star Aaron Tsindos were also both named as the winner of the best actor award for their performances in Bamboozled.
In his defence, Hardie told the ABC that critics had missed the point as the film was a satire on the media.
“The punchline really is a comment on media and how the world may have homophobia, but the lead character, and what I was saying, he was completely willing to go with either gender, he was in love with the person,” he said.
Buckmaster told the Star Observer such an excuse was a cop-out and did not wash.
“There is nothing remotely funny about a film which literally ends with a character getting pointed at and laughed at because he slept with a man,” Buckmaster said.
“It’s homophobic, it’s transphobic and it’s not making a satirical point whatsoever in my opinion.
“Satire is a very hard line to walk down and it takes a lot of skill to be ‘edgy’ … where the joke is ultimately the fact that it is wrong or the idea the comedy is wrong. I don’t think this communicated that very well. In fact I think it’s in very poor taste. Saying that this is satire is a very long bow to draw.”
The film was one of sixteen finalists chosen from more than 600 entries by a judging panel comprised of Hollywood producer Bruna Papandrea, award-winning writer/director Kriv Stenders, Legally Blonde director Robert Luketic, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Adam Elliot, Australian actor/director Nash Edgerton and award-winning actor Susie Porter.
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