The documentary community has been rallying around Syrian-born filmmaker Feras Fayyad, director of Oscar-shortlisted film The Cave, after he was denied a visa to enter the U.S. The situation escalated 10 days ago when Fayyad was detained on his way into Copenhagen, where he lives in exile, by immigration police and was forced to miss The Cave‘s panel at the TCA winter press tour. At the time, his colleagues and National Geographic, which is behind The Cave, said the documentary-maker would be reapplying for a U.S. visa. This time, he was successful.
“After weeks of turmoil and struggle and obstacles no one should have to endure, we can report that Feras arrived safely this evening in Los Angeles,” Nat Geo Documentary Films said in a lengthy statement Sunday night.
'The Cave' Director Feras Fayyad Misses TCA Panel But Will Reapply For U.S. Visa; Film's Subject Describes Horrors Of War
The Cave tells the story of Dr. Amani Ballour, the first woman to lead a hospital in Syria, who made heroic efforts to save lives in a subterranean medical facility in Eastern Ghouta, as the city sustained constant bombing by Syrian government forces and their Russian allies.
“Our hope and focus now is to try and arrange for Dr. Amani to also attend the Oscars and spend some time in the U.S. supporting her fund,” the Nat Geo Documentary Films statement continued. “We are grateful to the film community who feels as we do that now, more than ever, it’s crucial that we support and give a platform to storytellers and artists such as Feras who are attempting to enlighten, inform and inspire the world through their work.”
The State Department granted Fayyad permission to enter the U.S. for three months in September, an opportunity the Syria-born filmmaker used to attend screenings of Oscar-shortlisted The Cave at the Camden International Film Festival in Maine and AFI Fest in Los Angeles. After returning to Copenhagen, Fayyad applied for a new visa at the U.S. embassy there in December. He had hoped to attend the IDA Documentary Awards in Hollywood in early December, where The Cave was nominated for Best Writing, but was rejected.
He missed that awards show, the TCAs and The Cave’s broadcast premiere yesterday, January 25, on Nat Geo, but has made it in time for the Oscars on February 9. Fayyad previously earned an Oscar nomination for 2017’s Last Men in Aleppo.
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The outpouring of support from the documentary and entertainment community to help us in our efforts to have The Cave's director Feras Fayyad return to the US has been overwhelming. After weeks of turmoil and struggle and obstacles no one should have to endure, we can report that Feras arrived safely this evening in Los Angeles. Feras is a visionary filmmaker and activist who has dedicated his life to sharing Syrian stories, often at great risk to himself and the tireless and dedicated teams that work with him. His film, The Cave, implores us to bear witness to the ongoing atrocities of the Syrian crisis and to stand with those, like Dr. Amani, who refuse to be silenced. Through the power of film, as only he can, he has brought us into Dr. Amani’s world, and we are all a little bit better, more aware, and more compassionate, because of it. She is a true hero; a true humanitarian; the first woman to be a director of a hospital in Syria; and a true inspiration. Our hope and focus now is to try and arrange for Dr. Amani to also attend the Oscars and spend some time in the U.S. supporting her fund. We are grateful to the film community who feels as we do that now, more than ever, it’s crucial that we support and give a platform to storytellers and artists such as Feras who are attempting to enlighten, inform and inspire the world through their work.
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