Azadeh Masihzadeh, an erstwhile student of the director, had accused him of taking key elements of A Hero from her documentary, All Winners, All Losers, and then failing to acknowledge the original source or give her due credits.
A court in Iran has now found Farhadi guilty of violating Masihzadeh’s copyright. A second judge will determine the suitable punishment for Farhadi, who could be forced to hand over all the income that he has made from the film to Masihzadeh – an amount that is said to stand at $2.5 million. Or, he could face prison time.
A Hero revolves around a divorced father on a two-day leave from debtors’ prison, who comes across a purse containing gold coins. Things get complicated when the protagonist decides to return the bag to its rightful owner.
Masihzadeh’s documentary, which was conceived during a film workshop in 2014 at Tehran’s Karnameh Institute, revolves around the original story of an inmate in the debtors’ prison in Shiraz named Shokri.
She had presented the idea to Farhadi during the workshop, and the director of A Separation was reportedly very impressed. Masihzadeh said that Farhadi had later summoned her to his office, in 2019, and asked her to sign over all the rights, including that of the original idea for All Winners, All Losers, to him and she had complied. “I shouldn’t have signed it, but I felt under great pressure to do so. Mr Farhadi is this great master of Iranian cinema. He used that power he had over me to get me to sign,” Masihzadeh had earlier told The Hollywood Reporter.
However, Farhadi had denied these allegations and maintained that he had independently researched the story of A Hero. He also filed a defamation suit against Masihzadeh over her accusation.
A recent court order dismissed Farhadi’s defamation suit on the grounds that there wasn’t enough evidence to support the director’s claims that Masihzadeh was deliberately trying to damage his reputation.
Masihzadeh was acquitted a day before Farhadi was pronounced guilty of plagiarism in the countersuit that she had filed.
It is to be noted that a second lawsuit is also levelled at Farhadi by Shokri, the man who was the subject of Masihzadeh’s documentary and the one on whom A Hero is based. He has filed a complaint against the filmmaker for defaming his character through his fictional portrayal in the film.
A Hero is Farhadi’s most recent film and it has been met with near universal acclaim. It was not only the winner of the Grand Prix at the 2021 Cannes International Film Festival, but was also Iran’s official entry to the 2022 Oscars in the International Feature Film category. However, while the film made the shortlist in that category, it failed to find a place among the top five and earn a nomination.