Two-time Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi and his French producer Alexandre Mallet-Guy are denying reports that the Iranian auteur has been sentenced and found guilty on a charge of plagiarism pertaining to his latest film, “A Hero.”

Farhadi’s former student Azadeh Masihzadeh has accused the filmmaker of stealing the idea for “A Hero” from a documentary she made during a filmmaking workshop held by Farhadi in 2014 in Tehran.

“A Hero” is about an earnest-looking man named Rahim who, while on furlough after being imprisoned for debt, returns a lost handbag full of gold coins — an act that appears to make him a good samaritan. However, the story ends up being more complicated. The film won the Grand Prize in Cannes last year and was Iran’s submission for the international feature film category at the Academy Awards.

In a statement, Mallet-Guy said there has been no definitive and legally binding ruling on this case. Rather, there has been a preliminary investigation to decide whether it should be brought to trial, and it has been decided that it will.

Mallet-Guy, who is head of Paris-based Memento production and distribution company, also said the Iranian court in its preliminary deliberation, based on the investigation, has “dismissed” any potential claims by Masihzadeh pertaining to revenues from “A Hero.”

He also said he believes Farhadi will end up winning the case since the story that “A Hero” takes its cue from had been “disclosed in both press articles and TV reports years before Mrs. Masihzadeh’s documentary” was made.

This is one of the main bones of contention. Masihzadeh told The Hollywood Reporter that she found an original story about an inmate in a debtors’ prison in her home city of Shiraz, where the film is set, and that this story had not been reported in the media.

Farhadi told Variety last year in Cannes that the story behind “A Hero” originated from news reports.

“From time to time in the news in Iran you get stories about very average people who in their daily lives do something that is very altruistic,” he said. “And that humane way of being makes them very noticeable in society for a few days, and then they are forgotten. The story of the rise and fall of these kinds of people was really what interested me.“

Amazon Prime Video, which has U.S. rights for “A Hero,” did not respond to a request for comment.

Masihzadeh could not immediately be reached for comment.

Here is the full text of Mallet-Guy’s statement.

“A Hero” is my eighth film with Asghar Farhadi as a distributor and my fourth as a producer. We have won together two Oscars for best foreign film and many awards at Cannes Film Festival including the Grand Prix for “A Hero” last year.

I have an absolute trust in Asghar who I consider one of the most talented and creative directors worldwide.

I am aware that one of Asghar’s former students who directed a documentary film under his supervision and a former prisoner whose story has been, among others, one of Asghar Farhadi’ sources of inspiration for the Film, have filed complaints in Iran with respect to the film “A Hero”.

I have been in touch with Asghar’s Iranian lawyer and have been informed about the outcome of these complaints. Due to the false information which has been spread by the press, I think that it is important to make everyone aware of the decision of the judicial investigator rendered on March 14, 2022 in Iran regarding the film.

The judicial investigator’s role is to investigate, gather evidence and decide whether or not the case should be heard by a court.

The judicial investigator ruled as follows:

  • He dismissed the claim that the former prisoner’s reputation was damaged by the film and refused to refer it to a court;
  • He dismissed the claim that Ms. Masihzadeh should be entitled to a share of revenues derived from the exploitation of the film and refused to refer it to a court;
  • He referred Mrs. Masihzadeh claim for copyright infringement of her documentary film to the court.

We firmly believe that the court will dismiss Ms. Masihzadeh who cannot claim ownership on matters in the public domain given that the prisoner’s story has been disclosed in both press articles and TV reports years before Mrs. Masihzadeh’s documentary was published.

Various experts in Iran have already published articles analyzing this case and concluding in favor of Asghar.

I think it is important to emphasize here that ”A Hero,” like Asghar Farhadi’s other films, features complex situations where the lives of the characters are built upon one another. The story of this former prisoner finding gold in the street and giving it back to its owner is only the starting point of the plot of “A Hero”. The remaining is Asghar’s pure creation.

Alexandre Mallet-Guy