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An Iran court has moved forward on plagiarism charges against two-time Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi in a case accusing him of stealing the premise for his new film, A Hero, from an earlier documentary, All Winners All Losers, made by Azadeh Masihzadeh, a former film student of Farhadi’s.
A court in Tehran found evidence Farhadi violated Masihzadeh’s copyright for All Winners All Losers and of plagiarizing key elements of the documentary for his film without crediting Masihzadeh. The case will now pass to a second judge, whose ruling can then be challenged in an appellate court. The judge can also order the case to be re-examined.
Farhadi’s lawyer, Kaveh Rad, wrote on Instagram Tuesday that the case investigator has denied Masihzadeh’s complaint demanding a share of the film’s revenues in the case of a guilty verdict. Rad wrote that the first judge’s ruling should be “considered part of the trial process” and not the final word on the matter.
A separate case, filed by Mohammad Reza Shokri, the former prisoner who is the subject of Masihzadeh’s documentary, who claimed his reputation was damaged by Farhadi’s film, was dismissed by the court.
In a statement, Alexandre Mallet-Guy of Memento Production, which co-produced A Hero, said he was confident the court would eventually rule in Farhadi’s favor.
“We firmly believe that the court will dismiss Ms Masihzadeh, who cannot claim ownership on matters in the public domain given that the prisoner’s story has been disclosed in both press articles and TV reports years before Ms. Masihzadeh’s documentary was published,” the statement reads. “Various experts in Iran have already published articles analyzing this case and concluding in favor of Asghar.”
Masihzadeh disputes this, claiming she researched Mr. Shokri’s story on her own and that there were only local news reports on his case, ones not widely available.
Mallet-Guy further argues that the “story of this former prisoner finding gold in the street and giving it back to its owner is only the starting point of the plot of A Hero. The remaining is Asghar’s pure creation.”
A Hero premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year, winning the grand jury prize. It has earned around $2.5 million in theatrical release worldwide to date. Amazon Prime has rights for the film in the U.S.
Farhadi had admitted his movie, in which a man on leave from debtor’s prison finds a bag of gold coins and decides to try and return it to its rightful owner, was based on the same true story as All Winners All Losers, which Masihzadeh developed as a student at a documentary workshop taught by Farhadi. But the director did not give Masihzadeh credit for the idea, claiming he had independently researched the story.
Farhadi sued Masihzadeh for defamation and Masihzadeh countersued claiming Farhadi had plagiarized her original work.
This week, the Iranian court decided both suits in Masihzadeh’s favor, throwing out the defamation case and finding sufficient evidence to pursue a case of plagiarism against Farhadi.
An earlier version of this story wrongly claimed that Farhadi had been found guilty of plagiarism.
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