LOS ANGELES – Immigration officials briefly detained the Palestinian director of the Oscar-nominated documentary "5 Broken Cameras" on his way into town for Sunday's Academy Awards.
Emad Burnat says that when he arrived at Los Angeles International Airport from Turkey with his wife and 8-year-old son late Tuesday, agents told them they didn't have the proper proof that he was a nominee and would send them back if they couldn't verify the reason for their visit. After about an hour of questioning, the agents allowed Burnat and his family to enter the country.
Oscar-winning documentarian Michael Moore said on his website that he helped clear up the matter by making some phone calls on Burnat's behalf.
Burnat had just been in the United States two weeks earlier doing interviews about the film alongside his co-director, Israeli activist Guy Davidi, including some with The Associated Press.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement that it is prohibited from discussing specific cases, but noted that in general, "travelers may be referred for further inspection for a variety of reasons to include identity verification, intent of travel and confirmation of admissibility."
Moore, a friend of Burnat's and a champion of his work, wrote on his website, michaelmoore.com, that Burnat texted him from an airport holding area seeking help. Moore said he made a few calls to leaders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who contacted some attorneys to clear up the matter. The Academy did not respond to a request for comment on Burnat's detainment.
"5 Broken Cameras," the first Palestinian documentary ever nominated for an Oscar, already has won awards at the Sundance Film Festival and the Cinema Eye Honors. It features footage that the olive farmer-turned-filmmaker shot using five cameras in his occupied West Bank village of Bil'in, from everyday activities with his family to protests and shootings. The son with whom he is traveling, Gibreel, was the inspiration for buying the first of these cameras in 2005; like so many parents, Burnat wanted to document the boy's first steps and smiles.
But he also found himself wanting to capture the tension and fighting that are daily occurrences in the struggle for territory. In the film, his cameras keep getting destroyed in the violence.
Because of his experiences, Burnat said in a statement Wednesday, he's gotten used to the kind of questioning he and his family underwent at LAX.
"There are more than 500 Israeli checkpoints, roadblocks, and other barriers to movement across our land, and not a single one of us has been spared the experience that my family and I experienced yesterday," he said. "Ours was a very minor example of what my people face every day."