Oscar-winner Asghar Farhadi found guilty of plagiarising premise for A Hero
The idea is plagiarised from a documentary titled All Winners All Losers, made by Azadeh Masihzadeh, a former film student of Farhadi
A court in Iran has found two-time Oscar-award winning Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi guilty of stealing the premise for his new film, A Hero. The idea is plagiarised from a documentary titled All Winners All Losers, made by Azadeh Masihzadeh, a former film student of Farhadi.
A court in Tehran found Farhadi guilty of violating Masihzadeh’s copyright for All Winners All Losers and of plagiarising main elements of the documentary without crediting Masihzadeh.
Masihzadeh has claimed she pitched the idea for All Winners All Losers during a documentary filmmaking class at Karnameh Institute in Tehran back in 2014. Masihzadeh proposed the story of a Mr Shokri, an inmate in debtor’s prison who, similar to the protagonist of A Hero, found a bag of gold coins during a prison leave and decided to return them to their rightful owner.
Masihzadeh said that, in 2019, Farhadi summoned her to his office and asked her to sign a document saying that the idea for All Winners All Losers was his.
“I shouldn’t have signed it, but I felt under great pressure to do so,” said Masihzadeh. “Mr Farhadi is this great master of Iranian cinema. He used that power he had over me to get me to sign.”
Farhadi’s attorney Sophie Borowsky noted that “ideas and concepts are not protected by copyright,” which also means that the document signed by Masihzadeh has no legal value.
Borowsky added that inspiration for the film came from a Bertolt Brecht play but that the film is also a free interpretation of Shokri’s story, which Farhadi and his representatives claim was prominent in media well before the workshop.
Masihzadeh, however, claimed that “Shokri’s story was never in the national media, it was never on TV, it was not available online or in the public record. It was a story I found and researched on my own.”
Farhadi sued Masihzadeh for defamation and Masihzadeh countersued claiming Farhadi had plagiarized her original work. Earlier this week, the Iranian court decided both suits in Masihzadeh’s favor, dismissing the defamation case and finding Farhadi guilty of plagiarism.
The ruling is binding and cannot be appealed. A second judge will now determine Farhadi’s punishment. In the worst case, Farhadi may have to forfeit all income earned by A Hero in theaters or online to Masihzadeh, and could even face time in prison.
A Hero premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year, winning the Grand Jury prize.