Iranian director Asghar Farhadi and his film "A hero" at the heart of an accusation of plagiarism

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi and his film “A hero” at the heart of an accusation of plagiarism

On July 13, 2021, at 2 p.m., the multi-award-winning Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi climbs the steps of the Palais des festivals in Cannes, surrounded by the team ofA hero, presented in the official selection. He has no idea that five spies have slipped into the Louis-Lumière auditorium to examine his film, shot by shot. Sent by their comrade Azadeh Masihzadeh, a former student of Farhadi, they are responsible for giving a detailed account to the young woman. Remaining in Tehran, she intends to verify an intuition that has undermined her for more than two years: was the undisputed master of Iranian cinema inspired by the documentary All Winners, All Losersthat she realized during an internship with him?

At the center of the two films: a man detained in Shiraz prison for unpaid debt. During a leave, he finds in the street a bag full of gold coins. After some hesitation, he decides to return it to its owner. The press seized on him and made him a local hero, before doubt set in… Did he return the money or did he invent this whole story to restore his image? What is striking here is the mirror effect of this gesture so ambiguous that it shakes up appearances. Indeed, behind the scenes, a similar question arises: did Farhadi act loyally to his student or did he use her research for his own purposes?

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On July 17, 2021, the filmmaker won the Grand Prix, but, a year later, like his hero, fate turned against him. Following Azadeh Masihzadeh’s complaint for plagiarism, the Tehran prosecutor’s office indicted him, finding similarities in his film with the work of his student. In reaction to this decision, the Festival de Cannes has integrated, this year, jury of its 75e editingAsghar Farhadi, who spoke, for the first time, on the case from the Croisette: “My film and this person’s documentary are inspired by the same news item. The story of this prisoner had been reported by the newspapers and reports of the time. It belongs to the public domain. The question of copyright does not arise. » If it is difficult to know if Masihzadeh’s complaint will follow its course on the instruction side, the case, seen in its details, reveals itself to be strewn with gray areas which weaken the implacable logic of copyright as described by the filmmaker. .

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The story begins in 2014, at the Karnameh Institute of Arts and Culture in Tehran. Asghar Farhadi leads a workshop in which the trainees produce, in small groups, documentaries on the following theme: the heroization of individuals in society, taking the particular case of these anonymous people who find valuables and return them to their owners. While the students are dividing up the subjects, Azadeh Masihzadeh, originally from Shiraz, the city of poets located 900 kilometers south of the capital, decides to work on a local story in order to reduce his expenses. On the spot, an acquaintance told her that she had seen a report on the regional channel of Fars (Fars Province TV), a few years earlier, on a prisoner from Shiraz.

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