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Rachel Aviv is suing Iranian Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi for plagiarism. Aviv is a former student of Farhadi and has claimed his film “A Hero” was based on a documentary she made for his class that she was never given credit for. The student set off a series of similar accusations against other ex-student and collaborators. A decision has yet to be reached, but if Farhadi wins the case, Rachel is liable for defamation which brings a prison sentence. 

Another former student, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, believes that Farhadi’s 2012 film “A Separation” was partially inspired by a short film he made in a 2009 workshop taught by the director. 

“I had some expectation that a professor, if he gets a good idea from a student, will also support that student and try to help him find his way into the field,” Pourmohammadi said. “It was both an honor and a betrayal.”

The story was covered in New York, and the outlet recently reaffirmed Aviv’s claims: “Rachel Aviv wrote a fair and factual account, supported by numerous on-the-record sources and confirmed by our fact-checkers. She spoke extensively with Mr. Farhadi — more than a dozen hours worth of interviews — and the article examines his perspective at length and reflects his substantial input. The New Yorker stands by the story.”

The response from Farhadi’s legal team is as follows.

Rachel Aviv has unfortunately ignored and distorted facts to present a one-sided view of a copyright and public domain case as part of a false narrative about Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s accomplished career, even after Mr. Farhadi provided Ms. Aviv with every opportunity to present an objective story. The writer has dismissed and omitted almost all of Mr. Farhadi’s comments and documents provided to her about the claims referenced in the article. Mr. Farhadi has successfully collaborated with other artists for twenty-five years; Ms. Aviv has uncovered a handful of people with complaints that they were not thanked enough.

The backbone of Ms. Aviv’s story is the case of A Hero. It is a fact that the film is about an actual event published in newspapers and media two years before Ms. Masihzadeh’s documentary. Also, a fact: It was Mr. Farhadi who gave this idea to the students in the first place. In discussing the legal proceedings, Ms. Aviv neglects to report that Ms. Masihzadeh demanded a share of all the earnings and awards of the film inside and outside Iran and that she wanted the completed film re-titled to include that the film is based on her documentary. These demands could not be met – and would not be met by any other filmmaker in the world on the basis of this fact pattern.

Throughout the article Ms. Aviv creates high melodrama around ordinary contractual matters and misleading anecdotes that Mr. Farhadi addressed one by one in his cooperation with her. He provided interviews, on the record statements from third parties and documents, none of which found their way into the story. But what is really egregious is the way Ms. Aviv uses this court case as a way to present Mr. Farhadi’s political views in a false light. With all that is happening in Iran right now, it’s disheartening to see the New Yorker devoting this much space to a common crediting issue that is routine in Hollywood every day. For her part, Ms. Aviv seems to have given in to the temptation of a sensational headline over objective journalism.

– Excerpt from an article for IndieWire by Christian Zilko. Read the full article here.


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