A former student of two-time Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi has filed a lawsuit against Farhadi, accusing him of plagiarism.
The case was filed by a former student, Azadeh Masihzadeh.
Under Iranian criminal law, Masihzadeh could face 74 lashes or up to two years in prison if she loses the case.
Farhadi is a famous director with a long list of prestigious awards, including two Oscars for “A Separation” in 2012 and “The Salesman” in 2017.
The lawsuit alleges that he stole the idea for his latest film, “A Hero,” which won the jury’s Grand Prix at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, but was not shortlisted by the Academy this year.
Farhadi denies the allegations and has filed a defamation suit. He claimed to have had the idea for the film before meeting Masihzadeh.
The film’s main character, Rahim, played by Amir Jadidi, is the unmarried father of a young boy who finds a wallet containing gold coins just when he is on a two-day prison leave. He is in jail for his significant overdue debt.
Despite his initial thought of selling the coins and buying his freedom back, he decides to return the money to the owner. He becomes a “hero” and an example of a moral citizen in the eyes of the people of his community.
However, things do not go as planned and Rahim is in a dilemma between telling the truth or hiding it in his favor.
Farhadi’s former student claims that the director stole the story of “A Hero” from a documentary he made, “All Winners, All Losers”, in one of his workshops from 2014 to 2015 at Karnameh, a private cultural institution and of Art, in Tehran. Iran.
In the first session of this course, Farhadi brought a list of newspaper clippings to people who had found valuables and decided to return them to their owners instead of keeping them to themselves.
Negar Eskandarfar, Karnameh’s director, told ABC News that all the students in the lab began making documentaries looking for and finding characters they had been assigned and discovered the story behind their decisions to return the items they had found.
Masihzadeh, however, told ABC News that she found the story on her own because the groups formed in the classroom were full and had not been left without character. So she said she found her own character and story through extensive field research in the Iranian city of Shiraz.
“While most of the other characters that the other students followed had already been interviewed on national television or other media programs, Ms. Masihzadeh did all the research to find her story and character on her own and independently,” she said. ο Eskandarfar.
Mohammad Reza Shokri, the main character of “All Winners, All Losers”, is an unmarried father who is in prison for financial reasons. Masihzadeh’s documentary traces the trials Shokri went through after finding a wallet full of money on a day out of jail and how the return of that money affected his life.
Masihzadeh claims that Farhadi asked her in August 2019 to sign a document confirming that the idea for the documentary belonged to him.
She said she signed the document because she felt “intimidated” by Farhadi’s position as a well-known director.
Only after the screening of “A Hero” in October 2021 did Masihzadeh say that she realized the similarities between the plot of “A Hero” and her documentary.
“Watching the movie made my whole body tremble with shock because I could predict what would happen after each scene,” he said.
Farhadi’s lawyer did not answer ABC News’ question about why he asked Masihzadeh to sign the document. The Hollywood Reporter (THR) said it had questioned Farhadi through Sophie Borowsky, a lawyer whom THR said represented the film’s co-producer and distributor. Borowsky reportedly told THR that the document signed by Masihzadeh was “legally irrelevant” because “ideas and concepts are not protected by copyright.
Asked by THR why Farhadi would like Masihzadeh to sign a meaningless document, Borowsky wrote: “Asghar Farhadi obviously wanted to make it clear that he was the one who suggested the idea and plot of the documentary during the workshop.”
Masihzadeh sued Farhadi only after he sued her for allegedly spreading lies about him.
“Since I made the case public, I have received many messages from people in various fields, from painting to theater and cinema, about the neglect of their intellectual property by powerful people in the area,” Masihzadeh said. “This is what pushes me forward to get what I think is my right and I hope other people will do the same in the future.”