Oscar-Nominated Palestinian Director Likens Being Held for Questioning at LAX to Israeli Occupation

The Wrap
Oscar-Nominated Palestinian Director Likens Being Held for Questioning at LAX to Israeli Occupation
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Oscar-Nominated Palestinian Director Likens Being Held for Questioning at LAX to Israeli Occupation

Emad Burnat, the Oscar-nominated Palestinian director of "5 Broken Cameras," was held for questioning by immigration officials at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Tuesday.

It was an experience he likened to life under Israeli occupation in his native land.

"Although this was an unpleasant experience, this is a daily occurrence for Palestinians, every single day, throughout he West Bank," Burnat said in a statement to TheWrap "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 yesterday. Ours was a very minor example of what my people face every day."

"5 Broken Cameras" centers on a Palestinian farmer who lives on the border of an Israeli settlement and his non-violent resistance to often brutal actions of the Israeli army.

Michael Moore, the director of "Bowling for Columbine," first drew attention to the director's ordeal on Twitter. He tweeted that he had intervened on Burnat's behalf, by telling him to give the officers his number and called officials at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who in turn called their lawyers.

Moore is a governor in the Academy's documentary branch and a supporter of Burnat's film, though apparently did not act in an official capacity.

In his statement, Burnat said he and his family were held at U.S. immigration for about an hour after arriving in Los Angeles from Turkey.

They were questioned about the purpose of their visit to the United States, while immigration officials demanded proof that he was nominated for an Academy Award.

"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," Burnat recalled.

"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.," he added.

In his tweet, Moore said the director and his wife were held for questioning for over an hour.

"Apparently the Immigration & Customs officers couldn't understand how a Palestinian could be an Oscar nominee," Moore tweeted.

Moore did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

For the record: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Burnat was the first Palestinian director to be nominated for an Academy Award. He is the first Palestinian nominated in the Best Documentary Feature category.

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