15 February 2016 | 3:30 pm | Xavier Rubetzki Noonan

"If the atmosphere of hope and celebration at Centennial Park was anything to go by, there'll still be plenty of Tropfests in the years to come."

Centennial Park was packed to the rafters for the world's largest short film festival, an encouraging sight not just for the future of the festival (which was revealed to be in jeopardy just three months ago), but also for the filmmakers whose works were to be featured. None of the 16 finalists deserved to miss out on the excitement of a big screen premiere, and all of the films looked and sounded great on the massive screens arranged in the middle of the park, around which were seated tens of thousands of people. Most of the crowd were rugged up to avoid the wind, and the few who hadn't planned a lush picnic spread had plenty of (overpriced) options to pick between. It's Valentine's Day! Splurge a little!

Hosts Adam Spencer and Marc Fennell kept spirits high as the sun gradually set low enough for the films to begin, interviewing members of the judging panel (except for arbiter of good taste and judgment Mel Gibson, who wasn't put in front of a microphone until the very last minute), and reminding the crowd about the insurance company sponsor that saved the festival — you could get pretty smashed if you took a drink every time CGU got a mention. As usual, there was a bit of rain to contend with, but the punters were determined and in good spirits throughout the evening.

Women were grossly underrepresented in both performance and directing roles, although the one female director that did sneak into the boy's club made one of the best films of the night, a hilarious mockumentary called Tay Man, about three mates who are secretly huge Taylor Swift fans. The attention to detail and subtle direction showed inspiration from The Office, but mostly just showed masses of talent from a young filmmaker. Another favourite was Into The Maelstrom, an entirely too short documentary about influential Sydney band Radio Birdman, which featured an impressive array of interviews with band members and journos, as well as great archival footage from the glory days of live music in Sydney.

The winners of the night were all endearing and enjoyable in different ways. Third place went to The ATM, a comic short about two muggers sizing up people to rob at an ATM, which featured great performances from its two leads, and maybe the best one-liner of the night (taking an elderly lady's money would be "$50 worth of Scotch Fingers and Bushell's teabags!"). The film did feature a pretty on-the-nose rape joke (the pair didn't want to rob a young woman because "she looks like a screamer"), but it didn't seem to bother the judges.

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Second place went to the first film of the evening, Postcards To Ulay, which was a heartwarming animated film about an octogenarian whose dog was taken from him and shot into space in the name of science. The gorgeous watercolour artwork and rhyming narration made this one pretty much irresistible. The festival's overall winner was Shiny, a remarkable feat of filmmaking, with fluid stop-motion animation creating extremely effective madcap action, including slow-motion, wind effects, and its lead (a sky-blue man's suit, brought to life by movie magic) surfing a guitar on an ocean made of other characters.

The future of the festival is still in some doubt, but if the atmosphere of hope and celebration at Centennial Park was anything to go by, there'll still be plenty of Tropfests in the years to come.