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"Emad Burnat, Palestinian director of Oscar nominated '5 Broken Cameras,' was held tonight by immigration at LAX as he landed to attend the Oscars," documentary filmmaker and Academy branch governor Michael Moore Tweeted to his 1.4 million followers this evening. "Emad, his wife and 8-year-old son were placed in a holding area and told they didn't have the proper invitation on them to attend the Oscars."
According to Moore, Burnat texted him for help after being detained. "Apparently the Immigration & Customs officers couldn't understand how a Palestinian could be an Oscar nominee," Moore continued. "I called Academy officials who called lawyers. I told Emad to give the officers my phone number and to say my name a couple of times."
Moore also stated that Burnat's producing the Oscar invitation "wasn't good enough" and that the nominee was being threatened with deportation.
"He was certain they were going to deport him," Moore said. "But not if I had anything to do about it…After one and a half hours, they decided to release him and his family and told him he could stay in LA for the week and go to the Oscars. Welcome to America."
Burnat's film, which he co-directed with Israeli Guy Davidi, is the first Palestinian documentary ever nominated for an Oscar. It is the result of Burnat's coverage of peaceful Palestinian protests in a small village in the West Bank that frequently turn into physical altercations with Israeli soldiers.
Moore said Burnat later told him, "It's nothing I'm not used to…When you live under occupation, with no rights, this is a daily occurrence."
So consider it a bumpy start indeed for what should have been a fun week in Southern California basking in the glow of awards recognition.
"5 Broken Cameras" earned the Cinema Eye Honor in January for non-fiction filmmaking.
The 85th Academy Awards will be held this Sunday.
UPDATE: Emad Burnat has released the following statement:
"Last night, on my way from Turkey to Los Angeles, CA, my family and I were held at US immigration for about an hour and questioned about the purpose of my visit to the United States. Immigration officials asked for proof that I was nominated for an Academy Award® for the documentary 5 BROKEN CAMERAS 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.
"Although this was an unpleasant experience, this is a daily occurrence for Palestinians, every single day, throughout [t]he 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 yesterday. Ours was a very minor example of what my people face every day."
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