The White Helmets has been nominated for an Oscar in the Documentary Short category. Its subjects, including the leader and cinematographer of Syrian Civil Defense volunteers who have saved more than 60,000 civilian lives, will not be able to attend the Oscars, however — a consequence of President Donald J. Trump’s executive order on Friday suspending all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocking citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States for 90 days.
Asked whether they planned to stay away from the Oscars, as the nominated Iranian director Asghar Farhadi has said he will do, White Helmets filmmakers Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegarac told Deadline, “At the moment we’re concerned with trying to ensure the heroes of the documentary can attend.”
Yesterday a federal judge in Brooklyn blocked part of the President’s order, saying that refugees and others being held at airports across the United States should not be sent back to their home countries. But the judge stopped short of letting them into the country or issuing a broader ruling on the constitutionality of the order. Federal judges in Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington quickly made similar rulings.
“We have always said that if we were to be nominated, we would bring Raed Saleh, the head of the White Helmets, who has spoken many times in D.C., and Khaled Khateeb, the young cinematographer who risked his life over and over again, as our guests,” Natasegara said in a statement sent to members of the press Sunday. “They’ve been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize — these people are the bravest humanitarians on the planet, and the idea that they could not be able to come with us and enjoy that success is just abhorrent.”
Farhadi’s move has won wide support from the film community:
With the nominations of Watani: My Homeland, The White Helmets and 4.1 Miles in the Documentary Short category, and Documentary Feature Fire At Sea, the Academy has drawn a spotlight to the plight of refugees.
“This travel ban from President Trump is another devastating blow to refugees who have already suffered so much,” said Marcel Mettelsiefen, who directed Watani: My Homeland. As Trump seeks to demonize refugees and Muslim people in general, films such as Watani: My Homeland, which tell the human story of refugees, become ever more important. We must reconnect with the common humanity of the refugee experience and we must all remember that the founding story of America is dependent upon people who have fled war, hunger and poverty in search of a better life.”