Mohammad Rasoulof was due to present Manuscripts Don’t Burn at the Nuremburg International Human Rights Film Festival (NIHRFF).

Iranian authorities have confiscated director Mohammad Rasoulof’s passport on the eve of a trip to the Nuremburg International Human Rights Film Festival (NIHRFF) in Germany where he was due to accept a lifetime achievement award and present his latest film Manuscripts Don’t Burn.

On Wednesday, the Hamburg Film Festival denied reports circulating that it had announced Rasoulof had been granted permission to travel. Sources close to Rasoulof also denied the rumours.

“We don’t know where this story has come from,” said a spokeswoman for the festival. “Please read our official press statement on Rasoulof on our website.”

According to the NIHRFF, Rasoulof, who divides his time between Tehran and Hamburg, had his passport confiscated by the Iranian authorities when he entered Iran on September 19, preventing him from returning to Germany this weekend as planned.

“We are very concerned for Mr Rasoulof,” said festival director Andrea Kuhn said in a statement. “We find it absolutely unacceptable that the Iranian authorities refuse to let him leave the country.

“This is a severe violation of freedom of expression and basic human rights. We ask for the immediate return of Mr Rasoulof’s travel documents.”

The filmmaker was due to accept a lifetime achievement award at Nuremburg on October 8 and present Manuscripts Don’t Burn the day after. Prior to that, he was also due to attend the German premiere of the film at the Hamburg Film Festival on Tuesday evening (1).

He was also supposed to visit the Stockholm Film Festival. “It is unacceptable of the Iranian authorities to prohibit him from leaving the country and that he is being prevented from acting as a filmmaker. It is a violation of freedom of speach and basic human rights,” said Director of Stockholm International Film Festival, Git Scheynius, in a statement.

The covertly shot film, about a political prisoner who manages to secretly write his memoirs despite being under the constant surveillance by state security apparatus, premiered in Un Certain Regard in Cannes this year where it won the Fipresci Prize before going on to screen at Telluride and Toronto. 

The tale took inspiration from Rasoulof’s time spent in jail as well as his life as an intellectual in Iran. It also draws on real-life events from Iran in the late 1990s when the country’s secret police assassinated a number of intellectuals they regarded as a threat.

Paris-based sales house Elle Driver acquired international rights to the film during Cannes.

“It’s a very worrying situation,” Elle Driver co-chief Adeline Fontan Tessaur told Screendaily. “This prevents Mr Rasoulof from exercising his most basic human rights, the right to leave his country when he chooses as well as the freedom of expression.”

Aside from Nuremburg, Rasoulof has been invited to attend the Rio Film Festival, which is currently in full swing, as well as upcoming London and Vancouver film festivals and a slew of other autumnal festivals that have yet to officially announce their line-ups

“We have no clue as to whether he will be free to travel to these engagements,” said Tessaur.

Rasoulof has made several feature-length films but none has ever been released in his native Iran.

In 2010, he was arrested on the set of a film and charged with shooting without a permit. He was given a six-year prison sentence and a 20-year ban from filmmaking.

The prison sentence was later reduced to one year but has not been enforced. He is currently on bail awaiting the execution of the sentence.

Rasoulof’s penultimate picture Goodbye premiered in Un Certain Regard in 2011, winning best director and the Jury Prize.