UPDATE, 12:38 PM: Hours after being detained at LAX last night, Oscar nominated director Emad Burnat has now spoken out for himself about what happened. “Ours was a very minor example of what my people face every day,” the Palestinian filmmaker says of his and his family’s experience with U.S. Customs officials Tuesday night. Fellow documentarian Michael Moore took to Twitter in protest last night after the director texted him when officials took the filmmaker, his wife and son into a holding area to find out why they were entering the country. Burnat, who is up for an Academy Award this weekend for his co-directing efforts on 5 Broken Cameras, was threatened with being refused entry but eventually allowed into the U.S. after being held for an hour and a half. Read his full statement on what happened here.
Los Angeles, CA – February 20, 2013 – “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 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.” — Emad Burnat, Co-Director of 5 BROKEN CAMERAS
PREVIOUSLY, 10:01 PM: Michael Moore took on U.S. Customs last night and helped get a fellow filmmaker into the country for Sunday’s Oscars. The Academy Award winning documentarian went on a Twitter tirade late Tuesday as Oscar nominated director Emad Burnat was detained along with his family by officials when he arrived at LAX from Turkey. “This all just happened tonight, a few hours ago. He was certain they were going to deport him. But not if I had anything to do about it,” Moore wrote. This is not the first time Burnat, the co-director of the Sundance winning doc 5 Broken Cameras, has been in America. This time he was arriving for this weekend’s Oscar ceremony when customs hauled him, his wife and their 8-year old son in for questioning on why he was in the States. “Although he produced the Oscar invite nominees receive, that wasn’t good enough & he was threatened with being sent back to Palestine,” tweeted Moore, who is a governor on the Academy’s Documentary branch. Burnet had texted Moore soon after being placed in the holding area. “I called Academy officials who called lawyers. I told Emad to give the officers my phone # and to say my name a couple of times,” added Moore last night. “After 1.5 hrs, they decided to release him & his family & told him he could stay in LA for the week & go to the Oscars. Welcome to America,” the Fahrenheit 911 director said. An insider tells me that the Academy had nothing to do with getting Burnat released from customs. “He was out before anyone had a chance to do anything,” they said. For Burnat, the welcome reminded him of home according to Moore. ‘It’s nothing I’m not already used to,’ he told me later. ‘When u live under occupation, with no rights, this is a daily occurrence,’ “ Moore said online Burnat said to him after leaving LAX. Contacted by Deadline, U.S. Customs and Immigration said they had no comment on the incident. A former farmer, Burnat is the first Palestinian ever nominated for an Oscar for a documentary. The movie he and Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi made details the tension and protests between Palestinians in the West Bank village of Bilin, the Israeli military and a nearby settlement.