Palestinian Filmmaker Detained on His Way to the Oscars

David Wagner

Director Emad Burnat has gone through a lot to get to Hollywood. He lost five cameras during the filming of his Oscar-nominated documentary about Palestinians protesting an Israeli security fence. Even now, with an Academy Award nomination under his belt, he's still reportedly being held up by airport immigrations officers while trying to get to Los Angeles for the awards ceremony. 

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Yesterday, Burnat traveled from the West Bank — where he resides in a small, embattled town called Bilin — to Los Angeles in order to attend Sunday's Oscars ceremony. His film 5 Broken Cameras, in which the residents of Bilin clash with the Israeli Army over the construction of a security fence separating them from a Jewish settlement, is one of this year's contenders for best documentary feature. The title refers to the five consumer-grade digital cameras destroyed while this farmer-turned-filmmaker found himself caught in the commotion of some of the film's more heated moments. Widely praised by critics, The New York Times' A.O. Scott called Burnat's eyewitness film "a modest, rigorous and moving work of art." 

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But immigration officials don't abide by movie critics. According to Burnat and reports from various Israeli media outlets, he, his wife, and his 8-year-old son were detained by U.S. immigrations officials for about an hour and a half upon arriving at LAX. The officials reportedly claimed Burnat and his families didn't have the proper documentation for entering the United States, and Moore says they threatened to send him "back to Palestine." He then claims Academy lawyers got involved and Burnat was eventually allowed to leave the airport. Moore's Twitter updates (embedded below) from early this morning seem to be the only source on this story, so keep that in mind before getting outraged. However, if it is true that a filmmaker who documents containment at home was yet again contained in his effort to enter the U.S., what a perfectly poignant way to underscore the themes in 5 Broken Cameras

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[View the story "Michael Moore on Emad Burnat's arrival for the Oscars" on Storify]