The Arabic version entitled “Alqorban” was available for download on the websites last Tuesday.
Iran’s Farabi Cinema Foundation, as one of the main shareholders of the movie, which was officially banned in 2015, announced on Saturday that it will take legal action against those who are involved in this piracy.
In a statement published on Sunday, Darvish also asked Iran’s police, Foreign Ministry, Interior Ministry, Legal Department of the Presidential Office and other relevant organizations to investigate the issue and to stop illegal copying of his film.
He also called on people to not watch, download, and/or copy his film and also to prevent others from doing these “haram and illegal actions.”
Darvish spent 11 years making the film, which was completed in 2013. Its premiere during the 32nd Fajr International Film Festival in Tehran in February 2014 sparked a storm of protest from some ulemas over its depiction of Shia saints.
Meanwhile, the film was honored at the festival with Crystal Simorghs in eight categories, including best film and best director.
The faces of the actors playing the roles of Hazrat Abbas (AS), the brother of Imam Hussein (AS), Hazrat Ali-Akbar (AS) and Hazrat Ali Asghar (AS), the sons of the Imam, and Hazrat Qasim (AS), the son of Imam Hassan (AS), have been depicted graphically in scenes of the film.
In a letter sent to the Cinema Organization of Iran at that time, the Muslim cleric Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi censured the screening of the film.
“We know that this action will cause a negative impact… Does the Iran Cinema Organization plan to infringe upon sanctities and ignore the redlines?,” he wrote.
The depiction of Prophet Muhammad (S) and his household in any art production is not allowed by ulemas.
The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance promised the clerics that it would only authorize the movie after some modifications. As a result, over 40 minutes of the original film were cut out.
However, the alterations failed to placate the clerics and the culture ministry stopped screening the film hours after its premiere at Iranian theaters on July 15, 2015 following protests by them and certain people.
The culture ministry then announced that the film would be screened at Iranian theaters in the near future after additional modifications were made to the production. However, the film never hit the silver screens again.
Darvish and his producer filed a lawsuit against the culture ministry in a Tehran court, which ruled that the culture ministry must buy shares in the movie as compensation.
Consequently, the Farabi Cinema Foundation and Iranian Visual Media Institute, two organizations affiliated with the culture ministry, bought shares in the production.
The ministry allowed the film to be screened in international events. It won the grand prize for the best full-length feature at the 7th Baghdad International Film Festival in Iraq in October 2015.