Palestinian filmmaker briefly detained in Los Angeles on way to Oscars

Wed Feb 20, 2013 5:46pm EST
 
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Palestinian filmmaker on his way to the Academy Awards said on Wednesday he was held at Los Angeles International Airport and threatened with deportation before being allowed into the United States.

Emad Burnat, whose "5 Broken Cameras" is competing for an Oscar in the Best Documentary Feature category, said U.S. immigration officials took him, his wife and 8-year-old son aside when they arrived in Los Angeles from Turkey on Tuesday evening.

"Immigration officials asked for proof that I was nominated for an Academy Award ... 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," Burnat said in a statement.

Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said in a series of Twitter messages that he stepped in to help resolve the situation.

"Although he (Burnat) produced the Oscar invite nominees receive, that wasn't good enough & he was threatened with being sent back to Palestine. ... Apparently the Immigration & Customs officers couldn't understand how a Palestinian could be an Oscar nominee. Emad texted me for help ... 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," Moore tweeted on Tuesday evening.

Burnat said he and his family were detained for about an hour.

U.S. officials declined to comment on the incident, citing privacy laws.

"Travelers may be referred for further inspection for a variety of reasons to include identity verification, intent of travel, and confirmation of admissibility," U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement. "The United States has been, and continues to be, a welcoming nation."   Continued...

 
Palestinian journalist Emad Burnat pauses while he speaks to members of the media before a screening of his Oscar-nominated documentary "5 Broken Cameras" in the West Bank city of Ramallah January 28, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman