Sydney filmmaker Matt Hardie has defended his Tropfest-winning film Bamboozled after its subject sparked online controversy.
In the 48 hours following the film winning the annual short film awards, online commentary and social media have exploded with outrage calling the short “homophobic”, “transphobic” and offensive.
The short film focuses on a man who is tricked into sleeping with a guy claiming to be his post-sex change ex-girlfriend.
Hardie says that he didn’t want to offend gay people or the transgender community with the prize-winning short.
“All I was intending to do was make a nice short film that was entertaining and had a nice punch at the end,” he told AAP.
In the film, the protagonist – played by Hardie – wakes up next to the guy who is supposedly his ex post-sex change.
However, a TV crew bounds into the room telling Hardie he’s been “Bamboozled” and it’s an elaborate hoax set up by his ex-girlfriend, who is still a woman.
The YouTube clip has been watched more than 72,000 times, with 800 dislikes and 308 likes at the time of publishing, with some people calling for others to downvote the film.
— Darren Woolley (@darrenp3) December 9, 2013
Hardie says if anyone is being laughed at, it’s people who make reality TV.
“I don’t hear anyone piping up about that. They’re keeping very quiet,” he said.
Very curious as to what the judges who chose Bamboozled as the Tropfest winner have to say today, especially after seeing public reaction.
— Jess McGuire (@jessmcguire) December 9, 2013
The filmmaker said he admires comedian Chris Lilley and the TV show South Park for how they create comedy that’s “really pushing the envelope and you go `oh my God, they went there’.
“That’s really funny for me. I think the world would be a much sadder place if that sort of comedy wasn’t out there,” he said.
“I was out to make a comedy first and foremost but I wasn’t out to make an offensive comedy towards gay people. I just wanted to show a situation where a guy got himself into a really uncomfortable situation that he was not used to,” he said.
Hardie also pointed out that his character was willing to “go there” with a transgender person.
The actor/director showed the film to some gay friends beforehand who told him they thought it was hilarious but might ruffle some feathers.
“All I can say is that I’m not homophobic and I don’t think the film is homophobic. If you disagree with me than we’re just going to have to disagree,” he said.
And many people do disagree.
University of New South Wales film lecturer Greg Dolgopolov wrote for The Conversation criticising filmmaker Hardie for his “savage punchline”.
“It treats homosexuality as a nasty punchline and mocks the possibility of love that transcends external appearances.
“It ridicules gender reassignment surgery – characterising it as a whimsical spur-of-the-moment decision coupled with racialised plastic surgery to go for a “general Mediterranean wash … I really wanted the nose”.”
Professor Dolgopolov went on to explain why Tropfest, and the winning film, was important.
“Tropfest is no ordinary film festival – it’s one of the most prestigious awards available to up-and-coming short filmmakers.
“And on Sunday it was awarded to a gross-out film that has offended and alienated many in its target audience.”
Many other social commentators rallied against Bamboozled, Alistair Duncan on Junkee.com said it was “pretty bloody grim” with the outcome a disappointing one all-round for the festival.
Twitter did not react favourably to the decision, with many scathing reactions.
So disappointing after all the lovely weddings over the weekend. Sorry gays, you’re still just a big joke to the nation. — Jessica Alice (@jessica_alice_) December 8, 2013
Just saw the Tropfest winner, Bamboozled. What in the name of the tits of Zeus WAS that? I mean, offensive, mean AND unfunny. Christ.
— Paul Verhoeven (@paulverhoeven) December 9, 2013
Hardie’s concern now is that he may be typecast as “the guy who does taboo and risky subjects”, which could prove difficult considering his last Tropfest film was about a waterfight.
“My ideas are just what I think will work and is funny and interesting … I go with it,” he said.
“This time it happened the topic was transgender.”