Oscar-nominated Palestinian director detained at LAX
By: Yumna Marwan
Published Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Palestinian director of Oscar-nominated “5 Broken Cameras” Emad Burnat was detained at Los Angeles airport and threatened with deportation Wednesday, the filmmaker told Al-Akhbar in an interview.
Burnat traveled to Los Angeles, from Palestine via Turkey, to attend Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony, where his film has been nominated for the “Best Documentary” category.
He was interrogated, detained for six hours, and had his fingerprints taken twice. Airport officers googled his name to confirm that he had indeed been nominated for an Oscar.
LAX officials at first told Burnat they intended to deny him entry to the United States. “I told them I don't care if you send me back to Palestine, just don't detain me for any longer,” Burnat said.
His wife and eight-year-old son, who is the documentary's main character, were also held at the airport.
During his layover in Turkey's Istanbul, Burnat was also questioned by airport security officials.
Asked whether he thought he was sought out because of his film, Burnat said: “I don't know, but this is the first time this happens. I've been to the States six times in the last year.”
“5 Broken Cameras” documents non-violent resistance in Bil'in, a Palestinian village surrounded by Israeli settlements and Palestine's Apartheid Wall.
The US$400,000 documentary was made with contributions from Israeli and French government film funds. Its title refers to the number of cameras that Burnat, the filmmaker and main protagonist, had broken by Israeli forces as he tried to film weekly demonstrations against the military.
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore was the first to break the news of Burnat's detainment, because the Palestinian director's detainment kept him away from a dinner party for nominees where Moore was present. Moore announced Burnat's ordeal on his Twitter account.
“Apparently the Immigration & Customs officers couldn't understand how a Palestinian could be an Oscar nominee. Emad texted me for help.” wrote Moore in his Twitter account this morning.
Burnat won the documentary director's award at the Sundance Film Festival this year.