U.S. immigration authorities have denied Khaled Khateeb, the 21-year-old cinematographer and Syrian national who filmed Netflix’s Oscar-nominated The White Helmets, entry into the country for tomorrow’s Academy Awards.
According to internal Trump administration correspondence seen by the Associated Press, the Department of Homeland Security has decided to block Khateeb from the country after reportedly finding “derogatory” information about him, an official term that can mean anything from terror connections to passport irregularities.
A spokesperson for the film told Deadline that the filmmakers will have no comment on the situation or do “any interviews until tomorrow on the Red Carpet at the Oscars.”
Netflix’s 40-minute documentary about The White Helmets, or the Syrian Civil Defense, is nominated for Best Short this year. Produced by Joanna Natasegara and directed by Orlando von Einsiedel, the film focuses on the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated warriors who have saved more than 60,000 civilian lives in war-torn Syria. (Watch the trailer above).
It’s the latest blow for the film about these selfless heroes: Earlier this month when Donald Trump issued a travel ban prohibiting entry into the U.S. from seven predominately Muslim countries, including Iran and Syria, it was looking “unlikely” that Raed Saleh, the leader of the politically neutral volunteer rescue squad, and Khateeb would be able to attend the event in Los Angeles.
Natasegara told Deadline at the time: “I feel very embarrassed by this and you see what kind of affect this has on people who have already suffered so much…There’s a complete sense of indignity there that is so offensive and so damaging in ways you can’t see.”
When Trump’s ban was overturned, Saleh and Khateeb announced they would be attending the Oscars. In a statement released by Netflix, Saleh said: “We are eagerly looking forward to coming to the Oscars. It will give us an important platform for the voices of Syrian children and women trapped under the rubble as a result of the airstrikes and artillery shelling, and for the voices of thousands of displaced Syrians who have been forced from their homes.”
Khateeb spoke to CNN a few days ago in a lengthy interview about filming the life-risking documentary and said he planned on attending the ceremony.
“It is important that people understand that Syria has people who want the same things that they want: peace, jobs, family and to live without the fear of bombs,” he had said in an earlier statement. “This is what I hope the film does.”