Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi has finally publicly spoken about the scandal regarding allegations of plagiarism surrounding his 2021 film A Hero. Azadeh Masihzadeh, a filmmaker and former student of Farhadi’s accused the director of plagiarizing key elements of her documentary All Winners All Losers without acknowledgment or compensation. Earlier this year, Asghar Farhadi was indicted by an Iranian court on charges of plagiarism, while a lawsuit he had filed against Masihzadeh accusing her of defamation was dismissed based on insufficient evidence that she was trying to damage his reputation. Until now, Farhadi has not made a direct public statement on the situation. However, at the 75th Cannes Film Festival jury press conference, Farhadi made the following statements (per Deadline):
I have never spoken directly about this matter… This documentary was something I saw at a workshop and talked about with a student but much later, I created the film A Hero and it cannot be viewed as a way of plagiarising. In A Hero, what is in the film is something quite different to what is in the documentary. We have to see why certain journalists have spread this incorrect information.
Both Asghar Farhadi’s film A Hero and Azadeh Masihzadeh’s All Winners All Losers are based on the same real-life incident regarding an Iranian man and a quantity of found money. A Hero is a fictional film, while All Winners All Losers is a documentary, which the director took pains to point out. Farhadi is claiming that they were both inspired by the same incident, but that he did not draw on Masihzadeh’s work or research. He claims that he based his film on separate coverage in Iran, though Masihzadeh alleged previously that the incident was not widely covered and that she had pitched the idea of the documentary to him in a workshop in 2014. She also alleges that Asghar Farhadi later pressured her into signing a document stating that the idea for the documentary had been his.
During the Cannes jury press conference, Asghar Farhadi appeared to be attempting to stress that he had not been sentenced on charges of plagiarism. Currently, the Iranian court has indicted him on the charge and is investigating to see if there is merit at this point to dismissing it, which is not the same as saying he is not guilty. The director also made allegations at several points implying that unnamed journalists were spreading misinformation about him; he did not specify which news outlets these may be or how it affected the legal case against him that is currently proceeding.
Asghar Farhadi is the most acclaimed filmmaker in Iran. He has won two Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film for his movies A Separation and The Salesman and was named to the French Legion of Honour (the country’s highest award) in 2012. He has also won numerous prizes at film festivals, including a number at the Cannes Film Festival. The film in question, A Hero, won the prestigious Grand Prix Award at Cannes in 2021. This year, he is a member of the festival’s jury along with Rebecca Hall, Noomi Rapace, Jeff Nichols, and Joachim Trier. The jury is headed by actor Vincent Lindon.
During the course of his remarks, Asghar Farhadi said that he was sorry that the legal accusations made against him (and that he made against Azadeh Masihzadeh) had caused “ill-feeling” and alluded to conversations involving the splitting of earnings from his film. We will continue to update on the matter.