By: Daniel McElroy
Iranian authorities at Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport have confiscated the passport of renowned filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof. Returning to Iran from the Telluride International Film Festival in Colorado on September 18, 2017, Rasoulof was briefly detained at customs and released several hours later without his passport. He was also ordered to appear at the Prosecutor’s Office in the Ministry of Culture and Media for questioning some time in the coming weeks.
Rasoulof is the writer and director of the film “Lerd” (A Man of Integrity), which won this year’s Un Certain Regard award at the Cannes Film Festival. The film is a stark criticism of Iran’s political corruption and implicitly exposes the poor living conditions of the heavily persecuted Baha’i community in Iran, the first time an Iranian film has done so. The film has not yet been screened in Iran, and was only able to be screened abroad after extensive “legal proceedings.” Rasoulof had been in the U.S. attending several university and film festival screenings of the film before returning to Iran in September.
When authorities stopped Rasoulof at the airport on September 18, they gave no reason for their questions or for confiscating his passport. The director had entered and left Iran without incident on two occasions since “Lerd” screened at Cannes in May.
However, this is not the first time Rasoulof has run into similar trouble with Iranian security forces: in 2013 he was stopped in a similar fashion after returning to Iran from a foreign screening of his film “Manuscripts”, and in 2009 he was arrested along with another filmmaker and accused of shooting a project without permit. He was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison for that offense, though the sentence was eventually reduced to one year.
Rasoulof’s producer, Kaveh Farnam, reported on an Iranian radio broadcast last week that the seizure of Rasoulof’s passport likely means he will not be able to attend upcoming festival screenings of “Lerd” at which he was scheduled to appear, including the Batumi and Hamburg Film Festivals.