"It goes without saying that this announcement is the most difficult [decision] I've made in Tropfest’s 23 year history"
Long-running, venerated short-film festival Tropfest will not proceed with its scheduled 2015 program, it has been announced, after founder and director John Polson revealed that the iconic annual event had apparently fallen victim to "terrible" and "irresponsible" mismanagement of funds.
In a statement posted to Tropfest's Facebook page, Polson explained that the decision to cancel this year's scheduled 24th-anniversary event in Centennial Park was "devastating" but apparently — if somewhat inexplicably — unavoidable, describing it as "the most difficult one I've made in Tropfest's 23-year history".
"In the past week or so, I have been made aware that the company contracted to raise the funding and administer the Tropfest event is unable to move forward for financial reasons," Polson wrote.
"Despite a challenging sponsorship climate, Tropfest has done reasonably well in attracting support this year; however, to my great surprise, the management company has informed us that it is unable to proceed."
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According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the disputed amount numbers "well into six figures", and the founder has commenced legal action against the management company.
"It is too early to tell what has actually happened here, although it is hard to avoid concluding there has been a terrible and irresponsible mismanagement of Tropfest funds," he continued. "I and others will be spending the coming weeks and months investigating what has transpired."
Clarifying his position to the SMH from New York, Polson said that he was "not suggesting there's any impropriety here". "I honestly don't know. The best I can say now is mismanagement," he said.
Also in his statement, Polson expressed his sympathies and regrets to the 16 filmmakers who were due to be named publicly as finalists, as well as the event's "incredible" sponsors and partners — who had only been formally announced in late October — and "loyal and beloved" audience, concluding with a plea for understanding as the festival looks to recover from the blow.
"I ask all of Tropfest's many supporters to bear with us while we figure out how we can rebound from this disaster," Polson wrote. "Now more than ever, this unique Australian cultural event needs your patience and support."
This year's Tropfest had gathered entries from more than 450 filmmakers; the announcement of this year's finalists was due next week.