Vindicate winner of plagiarism slander
Winner ... Nicholas Clifford, director of We've All Been There, celebrates after winning Best Short Film at Tropfest. Photo: Getty Images
Anonymity is sometimes necessary, it is sometimes a quirk of fate and it is also sometimes cowardly.
Sadly, the latter is the case this week, as an anonymous website – whose URL I have no intention of publicising, for attention is all they seek – has chosen to try to gain credibility and presumably a few Twitter followers by sullying the success of the winning filmmakers at Tropfest 2013.
Nicholas Clifford's We've All Been There, the tale of a pay-it-forward gesture of kindness in a country town, has been unkindly, inaccurately and maliciously accused of imitating or plagiarising a 2000 music video Chain of Love.
The difference between the line "We've all been there" (in the film) and "I've Been There Too" (in the music video) is, admittedly, slight.
The difference between a music video and a short film is an interesting topic of debate.
The difference between the drive-in cinema portrayed in the music video and the Tropfest outdoor theatre at the Domain on Sunday night is an audience of 100,000 or so people, who loved the film made by Clifford and his team.
Most crucially, the difference between plagiarism and adaptation is huge. Legally and morally. Let's be clear: Nicholas Clifford has done nothing wrong, everything right and his reputation and the joy of victory have now been tarnished without any justification.
Tropfest has many traditions, not least of which are the catch cries that can be heard echoing around the Domain each year. After "The wrong film won!" and complaints about films failing to include the annual "signature item" (this year's was "balloons") the most common accusation is that the winning film is a copy – usually of a lesser-known work only the particularly plugged-in accuser and a few million of his or her closest friends have seen on YouTube.
It happens every year, because short films have a familiar style – particularly stories with twists.
Sure enough, this year We've All Been There has been tarred and feathered by some crafty individual with a bit of spare time and a half-witty URL. Well, to that particular web warrior, whoever you are, may I just say you are a spiteful, pathetic troll. Do your research before you publish next time.
For those who have heard the accusation, please don't believe a rumour on social media. Look at the facts.
The film acknowledges its source (the music clip doesn't, but oddly, that's not a topic for debate) with a clear statement at the beginning of the film. The source is, ironically, an anonymous story.
The filmmakers' lawyer vetted their actions. Tropfest then separately vet every film on their short-list before selecting a finalist. They do an exhaustive analysis looking for any potential copy-cat claims. They did that this year and duly gave We've All Been There the green light.
Henry Kalaf, the film and entries manager for Tropfest, who oversees that process, said "it's ridiculous to think that honest and open adaptation is under scrutiny for plagiarism. Both Tropfest and the filmmakers went through a vetting process."
The films were then judged on their film making – of which story is only one of a range of factors – and this film made the final 16, before being judged by an entirely new panel of judges to be the best on offer.
Sadly, one ignoramus with a website ignored the facts and since then a national newspaper has happily run the headline "Tropfest winner is the third to be accused of plagiarism in six years". That's called a beat-up in my language, giving a megaphone to a bitter little mouse, before quietly acknowledging the inconvenient facts.
Tropfest are rightly frustrated that this story is dominating discussion and the organisation "stands behind the jury's decision to award Clifford's film first prize", said Kalaf.
It's sad that a film about rewarding good deeds should be so unjustly vilified. It's sadder still that a film that acknowledges its source should be attacked by anonymous parties, rebroadcast by individuals who should know better.
So, if someone tries to tell you that this year's Tropfest winner was a rip-off, a copy or a cheat, please make the effort to correct them.
If, on the other hand, someone says the wrong film won – well, have a healthy debate, because that's what Tropfest is all about.