If the jury press conference for the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival is anything to go by, we’re in for a pretty punchy ride on the Croisette the next few weeks.
Iranian director Asghar Fahradi spoke for the first time of a plagiarism suit that was filed against him from his former film student Azadeh Masihzadeh, who accused him of stealing the idea of last year’s Cannes Grand Prix winner A Hero. Masihzadeh claims the two-time Oscar-winning director took the idea directly from her 2018 documentary All Winners, All Losers.
The director, who was initially found guilty, is currently waiting to hear if the evidence against him will be challenged or re-examined and insists that false information is being spread by different news outlets.
“I have never spoken directly about this matter,” Fahradi said at the press conference on Tuesday. “This documentary was something I saw at a workshop and talked about with a student but much later, I created the film A Hero and it cannot be viewed as a way of plagiarising. In A Hero, what is in the film is something quite different to what is in the documentary. We have to see why certain journalists have spread this incorrect information.”
The director added, “What we do is make fiction films and what I did in my film A Hero is not related to the work done in the workshop I’ve just referred to. It was based on a current event so this documentary and this film are based on an event that happened two years prior to the workshop. When an event takes place and is covered by the press, then it becomes public knowledge and you can do what you like about the event. You can write a story or make a film about the event. You can look up the information on this event. A Hero is just one interpretation of this event.”
After Masihzadeh’s lawsuit, Farhadi issued a defamation suit saying there was “insufficient evidence” to support the claims. If she’s found guilty, she could face a prison sentence of up to two years as well as 75 lashes, being that corporal punishment still is part of the Iranian penal system.
When asked directly about his feelings on this kind of punishment she might face, Farhadi sidestepped the question.
“It’s a very lengthy process obviously this has created a certain amount of ill feeling but the film was not based on the documentary and a suggestion was even made that the earnings of the film be shared between the two of us,” he said. “I think the matter will no doubt be cleared up and I’m sorry it has created so much ill feeling.”
A Hero follows the story of a man who discovers a bag of gold coins while he’s been temporarily released from prison. But after he receives attention for his kind act, police think he is lying.
The entire jury for this year’s edition, which is headed by Titane star Vincent Lindon and includes Rebecca Hall, Noomi Rapace, Jeff Nichols and Joachim Trier, was on hand to answer questions in the Palais before the festival kicks off officially tonight.
When asked if the festival was doing enough to address gender equality and racial diversity with its selection, Hall quipped “I think they picked the jury well,” which garnered laughs in the room.
“I believe that it is a work in progress across the board, Hall said. “The way that we are addressing this, the way of dealing with these things needs to be addressed on a grassroots level as well. It’s not just the festivals or public-facing situations. It’s about crews, it’s about all the minutiae of what goes into the industry at large and a lot of that has to do with education outreach and to help get people who don’t have access to those doors in and I think that we are in a better place than we have been but I don’t think it’s over.”
When queries about how representation on screen would affect the jury’s judgement of the titles they watch, Nichols said that “shared stories are innately human.”
“I think it’s our job to respond to these stories as humans and to take the emotion that they get and assess how it affects us,” he said. “I can’t imagine that a jury as diverse and thoughtful and intelligent as this one is one that won’t land on every topic that humanity struggles with.”
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