For the second time in recent months, accusations of theft are rocking the animation festival scene.
In December, we reported that Natalia Chernysheva’s award-winning 2012 short Snowflake was being screened at festivals with a new name, new credits, and new director attached.
This time, Bulgarian filmmaker Svilen Dimitrov is the victim. His 2012 short Rew Day is currently being submitted to and screened at festivals under the name Friday, with Iranian individual Ramtin Serajpour credited as the director.
When Dimitrov and the Rew Day producers at Miramar film found out that their film was being misrepresented on the festival scene, they reached out to Cartoon Brew, having just read our Snowflake piece a few weeks before.
“We realized such cases are more common than one would imagine, and the matter should be addressed,” Miramar’s Mila Voinikova told Cartoon Brew.
The company has since contacted several festivals that have selected Friday to inform them that it is neither a new nor original work. Miramar also reached out to film database websites such as IMDB, which has since removed the page for the retitled knock-off, and Filmfreeway, which was being used to submit the counterfeit version to festivals.
In reaching out, Miramar had two goals: “To make sure the fraud with our film is put to an end as soon as possible and to give enough publicity to this case to discourage such attempts with other films,” said Voinikova. “We have a saying in Bulgarian that roughly translates to ‘A lie has short legs.’”
Dimitrov added, “It is sad that people think that festival success would bring more pleasure than the creative process. Any small thing a person does is more precious than the one that is stolen.”
After speaking with the Rew Day team, we reached out to several individuals who screen shorts for festivals and websites and were able to get a hold of the version of Friday that is currently being submitted. Having seen both films, we can confirm that Friday is the exact film as Rew Day with a new title graphic and credits, the latter of which are notably incongruent with the rest of the film’s aesthetic.
In the interest of transparency and to bolster their case, Miramar film has made Rew Day available to the public on Vimeo. We’ve linked the film below, as well as several screenshots we were able to pull from Friday, leaving no doubt that these are in fact same film.
Cartoon Brew reached out to Serajpour through his email and social accounts, but has not received a response. Further, since we started trying to contact him, Serajpour has removed photos from his Linkedin profile and deleted his Instagram account, which had recently uploaded a shot of him holding a prize that he won by resubmitting Rew Day as his own film.
Although his social media profiles have been largely scrubbed clean, Serajpour can be seen in the below Youtube video promoting Box Short Film Festival 2021, where he was listed as the festival’s director:
We also contacted Filmfreeway for comment. A site representative replied shortly after our request, thanking us for alerting them to the infraction and saying that they had deactivated the filmmaker’s account which was associated with the project. No additional comment was offered by the representative.
At the time of this article’s publishing, the Filmfreeway page for Friday is still active, although Serajpour’s information is no longer included.
Finnish director, animator, and illustrator Joni Männistö recognized Dimitrov’s film when he was looking through submissions for the Turku Animated Film Festival. He had previously met Dimitrov at the Odense International Film Festival in 2012, where Rew Day won the Børge Ring Award.
“I was quite surprised to see a screenshot from Svilen’s film with the submitted films after so many years. Except now it had a new name, production year, production country, and it was made by a different director,” he told us.
After rewatching Rew Day to make sure his memory was accurate, he started posting about Friday on social media, warning other festival programmers that someone was out there trying to pass off Rew Day as their own film.
“I understand I wasn’t the first one to notice this, so I wonder why I hadn’t heard about it already. For selection committees, this is a very difficult situation because naturally we haven’t seen all films throughout history, and we can’t do background checks for thousands of submitted films every year,” he explained. “The animation community is small, so word gets around fast when something like this occurs. We need to warn each other. For festivals, this is an unfortunate and frustrating thing, but the original filmmaker is the one that needs to be protected the most.”