In 2002, Manuel Sirgo was the winner of the Spanish Academy’s Goya Award for best short film with his animated feature ‘Pollo‘ (Chicken). From this great achievement almost a decade ago, this week some corners of the movie industry are viewing him very differently.
Acting on a tip from movie rights company EGEDA, late yesterday Spanish police arrested the writer, director, current Academy member and previous Warner and Disney employee on suspicion of “infidelity whilst in the custody of documents and the wrongful disclosure of secrets” – aka leaking pre-release movies to the Internet.
According to the authorities, 46-year-old Sirgo and two of his employees from the “12 Pingüinos” (12 Penguins) production company uploaded various movies including Carlos Iglesias’ ‘Spaniards’ – a movie that has made very little in the local market – and ‘Ispansi‘ by the same director.
“I can not believe that one of our partners has played with the work and enthusiasm of so many people,” Iglesias told the Spanish media on hearing the news. “They have stolen our work. How are we able to make other movies if we do not recover the investment in this?”
Police say they believe that Sirgo used an Academy computer system designed to give early access to yet-to-be-released movies as a source for illegal Internet releases.
Sirgo, who has since been released, has denied all involvement and and says that his personal security codes must’ve been obtained by a 3rd party.
“I’ve never used my professional status of academy member or employer to put any films on the Internet, much less films that compete or have competed for any prize,” Sirgo said through his lawyer. “When the police came to me and told me what was happening, I could not believe it. How will I pirate movies if I am a director?”
However, a source in the Spanish authorities told Publico that even if telling the truth, Sirgo is responsible for his own codes.
Colleagues of Sirgo found the accusations hard to believe.
“He’s a very hard worker,” said animation director Pedro Delgado who knows Sirgo. “The only explanation is that someone has stolen his access code to the Academy.”