“Emad Burnat, Palestinian director of Oscar nominated 5 Broken Cameras was held tonight by immigration at LAX as he landed to attend Oscars,” tweeted Michael Moore last night. And further: “Emad, his wife & 8-yr old son were placed in a holding area and told they didn’t have the proper invitation on them to attend the Oscars…. Apparently the Immigration & Customs officers couldn’t understand how a Palestinian could be an Oscar nominee. Emad texted me for help…. 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.”
In Contention‘s Kristopher Tapley: “Burnat’s film, which he co-directed with Israeli Guy Davidi, is the first Palestinian documentary ever nominated for an Oscar. It is the result of Burnat’s coverage of peaceful Palestinian protests in a small village in the West Bank that frequently turn into physical altercations with Israeli soldiers.”
“Sparked by aggressive Jewish settlement and the building of an Israeli security barrier on Palestinian land in the early aughts, nonviolent resistance has taken hold in a growing number of Palestinian villages on the West Bank,” explained Ella Taylor in the Voice last year. “To date, at least three shoestring documentaries have charted the progress of nonviolent protest in West Bank farming communities, two of them in the beautiful but scarred terrain around the village of Bil’in, at least half of whose lands were threatened with confiscation by Israel. On the heels of Bil’in, My Love (2007) and Budrus (2010) comes 5 Broken Cameras… If ever there were a place where the personal is also political every minute of every day, it’s Bil’in. 5 Broken Cameras shows repeated assaults on Burnat’s cameras, which were quickly replaced, some of them by Israeli activists. ‘I always felt protected when I held the camera,’ Burnat says. ‘And one of them saved my life when a soldier shot two bullets directly at my face. One of those bullets is still inside the lens.'”
As for last night’s detention, Moore says that Burnat told him, “It’s nothing I’m not already used to… When you live under occupation, with no rights, this is a daily occurrence.”
Update: Emad Burnat has issued a statement via Kino Lorber:
Last night, on my way from Turkey to Los Angeles, CA, my family and I were held at US immigration for about an hour and questioned about the purpose of my visit to the United States. Immigration officials asked for proof that I was nominated for an Academy Award® for the documentary 5 Broken Cameras 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.
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.
Although this was an unpleasant experience, this is a daily occurrence for Palestinians, every single day, throughout he West Bank. 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. Ours was a very minor example of what my people face every day.
Update, 3/1: “In statements made exclusively to The Atlantic Wire, Michael Moore and Emad Burnat say the Palestinian filmmaker’s detainment by LAX customs officials on his way to the Oscars was anything but a ‘publicity stunt,’ as a deeply flawed BuzzFeed report based on a single anonymous source characterized the incident. ‘BuzzFeed is trying to spin their way out of this,’ Moore said in an interview on Tuesday evening, ‘and they’re just running the talking points from the customs officials there at LAX.'”