Iranian director Asghar Farhadi has publicly addressed the plagiarism allegations against him, for the first time, at Cannes 2022

Speaking at the film festival, he denied plagiarizing his 2021 movie, ‘A Hero’. The Iranian Oscar-winner commented on Tuesday, “My film was not based on the documentary”, adding, “I think the matter will no doubt be cleared up. And I’m sorry it has created so much ill feeling”. 

Farhadi’s film, which won Grand Prize in Cannes last year, tells the story of a man who’s been temporarily released from prison when he finds and returns a bag full of gold coins. However, when the good samaritan’s action draws media attention, police suspect he could be lying. 

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Alexandre Mallet-Grey, the movie’s producer has claimed ‘A Hero’ is based on a story in the Iranian news reports, while Farhadi’s former student, Azadeh Masihzadeh says she first uncovered the story in her documentary about an inmate in Shiraz. 

An Iranian court is hearing Masihzadeh’s case, where she’s accused the director of copying the idea from a documentary she showed him in a workshop in Tehran, in 2014. 

A verdict is expected from the Iranian court but the timeline of it remains unclear. Farhadi’s current statements come during the press conference involving Cannes 2022 jury members, which includes him. 

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He started off dismissing the newspaper accounts, saying “The information was incorrect and was corrected subsequently. So I think we need to rectify the situation in light of the correct information.” 

The statement, which was in Farsi and later translated, then went on to say “This documentary was something I saw at a workshop. I talked about it with the student. But much later on, I created the film ‘A Hero.’ And it cannot be viewed as a way of plagiarizing. In fact, in ‘A Hero,’ what is in the film is something quite different.”

Farhadi also clarified where he’d gotten the idea for the tale, saying “What we do is to make fiction films and what I did in my film ‘A Hero’ is not related to the work done in the workshop I just referred to. It was based on a current event. This documentary and my film ‘A Hero’ are simply based on an event that happened two years prior to the workshop. When an event takes place and is discovered by the press, then it becomes public knowledge and you can do what you like — you can write a story or make a film about the event without one being a copy of the other.” 

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He also asserted, “You can look at the information on this event. ‘A Hero’ is just one interpretation of this event whereas the documentary was a documentary. It was not the same take at all.” 

Noting that the matter was still being debated by the court, Farhadi stated, “A suggestion was even made that the earnings of the film be shared between the two fo us”, before concluding that the situation had caused some ill-feeling, but the information in the media, about him being found guilty and sentenced, was wrong and should be corrected. 

In April, press reports suggested that Farhadi had been found guilty – but since then, these reports have been rectified to reflect where the situation stands.