Oscar-nominated director held by US customs

Feb 22, 2013, 06:54 IST | Agencies

Emad Burnat, whose Five Broken Cameras is up for best documentary, describes the unpleasant moment when US authorities threatened to send him home

Oscar-nominated Palestinian director Emad Burnat lamented that US border guards detained him and his family at the Los Angeles airport as they arrived for the awards show.

Burnat, whose Five Broken Cameras is up for best documentary at Sunday’s 85th Academy Awards, said it was abnormal that he was held up at LAX for an hour — but said the Palestinian people endure similar problems every day.

Custom-ary issues: Emad Burnat, palestinian director, said that his people endured similar problems everyday. Pic/AFP

“I am the first Palestinian that has a documentary nominated to the Oscars. And it’s important to be an Oscar nominee. So, to hold at the airport an Oscar nominee and start to question him, it’s not normal,” he said.

He added, “We go through this in our country because we live in a not normal situation under Israeli occupation,” and have to go through checkpoints and border crossings all the time.

“I felt the same thing when they stopped me in Los Angeles, because I am a Palestinian and I have a Palestinian passport so there is no big respect for me and my passport,” he said.

Burnat spoke at an Oscars-organised event for documentary nominees. In a statement earlier, he said guards wanted proof that he was nominated for an Oscar, adding 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.”

“After 40 minutes of questions and answers, Gibreel asked me why we were still waiting in that small room. I simply told him the truth: ‘Maybe we’ll have to go back.’ I could see his heart sink.”

But he added, “Although this was an unpleasant experience, this is a daily occurrence for Palestinians, every single day, throughout the West Bank... Ours was a very minor example of what my people face every day.”

A US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency spokesman, when as asked for comment, said he could not discuss individual cases due to privacy laws. But in a statement the agency said the “CBP strives to treat all travellers with respect and in a professional manner, while maintaining the focus of our mission to protect all citizens and visitors in the United States.”

“Travellers may be referred for further inspection for a variety of reasons to include identity verification, intent of travel, and confirmation of admissibility.”     

Michael Moore throws weight behind director
Michael Moore, the man behind Fahrenheit 9/11, among many other highly controversial films, threw his considerable weight behind Palestinian director Emad Burnat. According to Moore, he contacted Oscar officials, who got in touch with immigration officials who ultimately confirmed Emad’s invite to the Oscar ceremony in Los Angeles. “After 1.5 hrs, they decided to release him & his family & told him he could stay in LA for the week & go to the Oscars. Welcome to America,” Moore tweeted.

About the movie
Burnat co-directed 5 Broken Cameras with Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi. The movie focuses on Burnat’s Palestinian village in the West Bank and the peaceful protests directed against the Israeli Defense Force. 

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