Director Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian filmmaker behind the Oscar-winning films ‘A Separation’ and ‘The Salesman’, remains embroiled in a plagiarism lawsuit over his latest film.
“A Hero” (“Ghahreman”), which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival last year and was Iran’s international feature at the Oscars this year, centers on a real-life Shirazi prisoner who finds a purse filled with parts and goes viral to find the owner rather than keep it to himself.
But the two-time Oscar winner, 49, has been accused of infringing the copyright of ‘All the Winners, All the Losers’, a former film student’s documentary about the prisoner, and of withholding income from him and allegedly defaming the subject of his doc.
Last month, a forensic investigator in Iran – whose job it is to gather evidence and decide whether the case should go to court – allowed Farhadi’s former student Azadeh Masihzadeh to file a lawsuit against the director based on her copyright claim. But the prosecutor’s office denied his claim for income and the actual prisoner’s defamation suit.
This preliminary decision would be binding and cannot be appealed, according to the Hollywood Reporter and Deadline. However, Farhadi was not found guilty, because some reports suggest.
And his lawyer, Kaveh Rad, wrote on Instagram on Monday that the decision made by the investigator is not the final verdict and is still considered part of the trial process in Iran. He said the case “will be re-examined first before the second criminal court and then before the court of appeal”.
Masihzadeh claimed to have made his documentary during a workshop at Karnameh, a cultural and arts institution in Tehran overseen by Farhadi in 2014, ABC News reported. She accused Farhadi of plagiarizing key elements from her film without crediting her.
Farhadi reportedly started the workshop by bringing newspaper clippings of people who found valuables but decided to return them to their owners rather than keep them for themselves. Workshop students were assigned characters and understood the story behind each of their decisions, Karnameh workshop leader Negar Eskandarfar told ABC.
Masihzadeh alleged that she found her story on her own and sought it out in her city of Shiraz, Iran. However, Farhadi’s lawyer argued in his post that the prisoner’s 2012 story had already been published in the media and was in the public domain, so no one can claim sole ownership.
The director is also said to have the support of the Kaneh Cinema & Iranian Alliance of Motion Picture Guilds in Iran, as well as a letter from the students of the workshop saying that he did not base his idea for “A Hero” on the work of Masihzadeh.
Farhadi won his first Oscar in 2012 for the heartbreaking feature ‘A Separation’. He won his second for “The Salesman” in 2017, but boycotted the Oscars in protest of then-President Trump’s travel ban that barred travelers from seven countries, including Iran.
A representative for Farhadi did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment on Tuesday. However, ‘A Hero’ producer Alexandre Mallet-Guy said he believed the court would dismiss the case.
“We strongly believe that the court will remove Ms Masihzadeh, who cannot claim ownership of matters in the public domain given that the prisoner’s story was leaked in press articles and television reports years before Ms. . [sic] Masihzadeh’s documentary has been released. Various Iranian experts have already published articles analyzing this case and concluding in favor of Asghar,” Mallet-Guy said in a statement to The Times on Tuesday.
“I think it’s important to emphasize here that ‘A Hero’, like Asghar Farhadi’s other films, presents complex situations where the lives of the characters are built on top of each other. The story of this former prisoner finding gold on the street and returning it to its owner is just the starting point for the plot of ‘A Hero’. The rest is the pure creation of Asghar,” added Mallet-Guy.
Times editor Sarah Parvini contributed to this report.