Even with the official Oscars nomination and invitations, immigration officials didn’t believe that a Palestinian farmer had been nominated for an Academy Award.
Emad Burnat, director of the Academy-nominated documentary “5 Broken Cameras,” his wife and youngest son Gibreel, were detained for over an hour by US Immigration Officials at LAX when they arrived for this weekend’s Oscars ceremony. According to the Guardian they believed for a time that they were going to be sent home that very same day. Burnat said in a statement,
Immigration officials asked for proof that I was nominated for an Academy Award, and they told me that if I couldn’t prove the reason for my visit, my wife Soraya, my son Gibreel and I would be sent back to Turkey on the same day. After 40 minutes of questions and answers, Gibreel asked me why we were still waiting in that small room. I simply told him the truth: “Maybe we’ll have to go back.” I could see his heart sink.
The film “5 Broken Cameras,” which according to the Daily Mail is “the first Palenstinian documentary ever nominated for an Oscar,” chronicles the “tensions and fighting” surrounding the ongoing conflict over territory and the creation of a separation wall by Israel in Burnat’s West Bank village. When Burnat, who is an olive farmer by trade, initially bought his first camera, it was for the same reason so many of us make that type of purchase, he wanted to film the growth and development of his child. Much of the footage he took of Gibreel also made it’s way into the film. The documentary was named for the 5 cameras he went through while filming because they kept getting destroyed in the violence.
Although for a short while there was uncertainty as to whether Burnat and his family would be allowed into the country, Burnat explained that their experience with the US immigration officials was actually,
A very minor example of what my people face every day. Although this was an unpleasant experience, this is a daily occurrence for Palestinians, every single day, throughout the West Bank. There are more than 500 Israeli checkpoints, roadblocks, and other barriers to movement across our land, and not a single one of us has been spared the experience that my family and I experienced [in Los Angeles].
When contacted for a statement, the US Customs and Border Protection said that it is not permitted to discuss specific cases such as this, but generally, “Travelers may be referred for further inspection for a variety of reasons to include identity verification, intent of travel and confirmation of admissibility.”
Oscar-winning director Michael Moore, a friend and “champion” of Burnat’s work, was instrumental in clearing up the “misunderstanding,” after Burnat sent him a text from the airport immigration holding area. Moore said on his website that he “helped clear up the matter by making some phone calls to Oscars’ officials on Burnat’s behalf.” After alerting several of the “leaders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,” several attorneys were contacted and the matter was cleared up.
Welcome to America indeed!
Photo: AP/Damian Dovarganes