‘Inspiring, emotional’: Documentary about street art wins Tropfest film festival
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‘Inspiring, emotional’: Documentary about street art wins Tropfest film festival

Finalists in this years Tropfest.

Finalists in this years Tropfest.Credit:AAP

A moving documentary about an anonymous female street artist who paints portraits of train commuters won the Tropfest short film festival in Sydney on Saturday night.

The film, Be You T. Fool, depicts an unnamed woman as she sketches people on trains, before painting large portraits and plastering them on a pillar of a busy suburban bridge in Melbourne.

The motivation behind her art is to contribute to “a better world”, she says in the film.

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Directed by Melbourne filmmaker Brendan Pinches, the six-minute film won critical acclaim from a star-studded judging panel including Eric Bana and Jessica McNamee.

Bana, who presented the winner’s trophy, said the judges were “unanimous” in their decision.

“It was entertaining, it was well-made, it was inspiring, it was emotional. It had everything,” Bana said.

A Tropfest spokeswoman said it was “rare” for a documentary to win the top gong.

In the film, the unnamed artist says her motivation is to encourage people to “be you, be yourself”.

“You’re beautiful, and it’s your inner fool that makes you so. I think it’s humanity’s saving grace, the fact that we have a foolishness,” the artist says.

She has been sketching fellow train commuters for at least 13 years, and pasting the paintings onto the Chandler Highway bridge for the past eight years.

“It’s my little bit of urban activism, my little way of contributing to a better world. It’s just a little project, it doesn’t have any strings attached. It just is what it is.”

Thirty-two-year-old director and producer Pinches, who works for an engineering company in Melbourne, described the victory as “unbelievable”.

“Tropfest isn’t traditionally a documentary festival, so we had no expectations,” he said.

Pinches said he was inspired to make the film after seeing the artwork on his commute to work.

“I would cross that bridge every day and notice that the artworks were changing every couple of weeks. I just became more and more curious, I wanted to know who the artist was. There was no information online.

“I wrote a letter and pasted it on the pillar of the bridge, and she got back to me a few days later. She just texted me, I left my number. I think she was probably a bit sceptical initially.”

Pinches paid tribute to his subject, describing her as “just a modest, humble person”.

“She’s just got a beautiful, generous spirit and she just, for whatever reason, showed some faith in me and shared her story. We’re totally indebted to her,” he said.

Asked whether she was the Australian equivalent of Banksy, an anonymous and infamously street artist in England, Pinches chuckled at the comparison.

“Who knows?” he said. “She’s not someone who wants the profile. The problem is her artworks appear in the same spot every time, so it might be hard for her to remain anonymous.”

As well as the prized trophy and bragging rights, Pinches won a new car, $10,000 cash and a film immersion course in Los Angeles to kick-start his career.

The festival was held in Parramatta Park, but storm damage from Friday night’s inclement weather forced a last-minute location change to another part of the park.

Tropfest event director Paul Kind praised “the entire Tropfest team [who] rallied overnight to develop an alternate plan to screen our finalist films to a live audience.”

1st place: Brendan Pinches, Be You T. Fool

2nd place: Rory Kelly, Comican’t

3rd place: Cassie de Colling, Allie

Josh Dye is a news reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.

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