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Azadeh Masihzadeh, the former film student of Asghar Farhadi who has accused the two-time Oscar-winning Iranian director of stealing the idea for his new film A Hero from her original documentary, has been acquitted of defamation charges by an Iranian court. Farhadi had brought the suit against Masihzadeh after she publicly claimed the plot for A Hero was taken directly from her 2018 documentary All Winners, All Losers. In response, Masihzadeh filed a plagiarism suit against Farhadi.
The Iranian court has now dismissed Farhadi’s defamation suit, saying there was “insufficient evidence” to support the director’s claims that Masihzadeh was deliberately trying to damage the director’s reputation with her plagiarism claims. Farhadi can still appeal the ruling. According to her lawyer, if Masihzadeh had been found guilty, she potentially faced a prison sentence of up to two years as well as 74 lashes (corporal punishment still being a part of the Iranian penal system).
The court has not yet ruled on Masihzadeh’s plagiarism suit, and it is unclear whether Masihzadeh’s acquittal will impact her case against Farhadi.
The plagiarism case focuses on similarities between the plot of All Winners, All Losers and A Hero. Both the documentary and the feature film are focused on the story of a man on leave from debtors’ prison who stumbles across a purse containing gold coins. But when he tries to return them, things get complicated and the man becomes the focus of a media campaign that he hopes will refurbish his image from ex-con to selfless do-gooder. Masihzadeh researched and developed her film at a 2014 documentary workshop in Iran taught by Farhadi.
For his part, Farhadi denies all allegations and claims to have independently researched the original story on which Masihzadeh’s documentary is based.
If the court finds Farhadi guilty of plagiarizing All Winners, All Losers, he could be forced to hand over “all income earned by the screening of the film in theaters or online” for A Hero to Masihzadeh. The film, which premiered in Cannes last year and won the Grand Jury award, has earned around $2.5 million in theatrical release internationally. Amazon Prime has U.S. rights for A Hero.
Reached via WhatsApp in Iran, Masihzadeh told The Hollywood Reporter she was “not happy at all. Just relieved. I am not happy because I respected Mr. Farhadi a lot as my master [teacher]. Sometimes, I think I should never have [spoken out] in the first place.”
THR is the only English-language publication to have reported extensively on the case.
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