Could the narrative short film UTOPIA by award winning Greek Australian director Kosta Nikas be the world's most pirated short film?
There has been a mad rush by internet users to translate and subtitle it in their own language; a phenomenon typically seen for feature films, not short films!
Shot in 2016 and released in 2019, Utopia was officially selected by Omeleto, one of the world’s largest platforms, for its online world premiere on March 2021 where a year later, March 2022, it has clocked up close to a million views.
“Utopia constructs a fascinating world that seems only a few steps removed from our phone-saturated society, telling its cautionary tale in an ironically jaunty way,” reads a statement by Omeleto.
Home of the next generation of great filmmakers: Sundance winners, Oscar nominees and critically-acclaimed filmmakers from every genre; Omeleto boasts over 5 million subscribers across its social media platforms, with tens of millions of viewers each month.
“After we completed our international festival circuit run, we were pleasantly surprised by its selection from Omeleto and happily signed a deal to share it online with film enthusiasts around the world,” says writer-director Kosta Nikas.
‘Utopia’ has taken out two international awards – Best International Narrative Short at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival and Best Short Film (Comedy) at the Toronto Shorts International Film Festival, screened also at the Athens International Film Festival, Greece whilst also receiving an Orpheus award nomination for Best Short Film at the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival.
The award winning film also received an invitation to screen at the world’s prestigious UTOPIALES sci-fi festival in France as one of the 35 best sci-fi short films for its 2020 programming.
The 878,065 official views it has clocked up on youtube to date are only half the story. It is estimated that the total views are closer to 2 million, after an army of internet users, started pirating the movie, adding subtitles in their own language and sharing it across all manner of facebook and social media groups.
"It's been an amazing phenomenon to observe. Awkward but flattering at the same time. I don't mind them 'stealing' it; after all we make movies so people can watch them," says Nikas.
"People are actually spending time, money and resources to dub or add subtitles, in their own language and then distribute it." adds the filmmaker.
Utopia has been pirated in French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish Serbian, Russian, Croatian, Romanian and Japanese to mention a few; an uncommon phenomenon in the short film sector but rather something you see with feature films.
"I think it's struck a nerve with people due to the timing with the pandemic, even though I shot it in 2016; completed it exactly a year before the covid-19 outbreak." adds writer-director Kosta Nikas.
“Today, through mobile technology, WE are each other’s ‘Big Brother’, each other’s surveillance and snitches! ” explains Kosta Nikas.
Interestingly, Utopia has been published as an educational resource on the website of the UK's prestigious The Times Educational Supplement which connects to 13 million educators globally.
Unlike other dystopian stories where the Government is ‘Big Brother’ engaging in control and power via a vertical hierarchical relationship with its citizens, Nikas explored a 'horizontal' relationship instead, ie. citizen - vs- citizen.
“Today, through mobile technology, WE are each other’s ‘Big Brother’, each other’s surveillance and snitches! ” explains Nikas.
“In ‘Utopia’ I take it a step further by showing that citizens are incentivised to be complicit with the State, through a commission payment system. This is a far more dangerous society, where we are our own enemy."
“You can fight an external enemy, but how do you fight yourself?”
UTOPIA: Viewership to date, of some of the pirated copies* :
French pirated copy: 502,000
Portuguese pirated copy: 27,252
Greek pirated copy 1: 225,000
Greek pirated copy 2: 13,000
Russian pirated copy: 22,470
Japanese pirated copy: 62,000
* Greek City Times has verified the numbers, but will not publish the links to the pirated versions of the film. We encourage viewers to instead visit the official Omeleto channel on youtube: