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Palestinian Oscar nominee briefly held at LAX

February 20, 2013|By Edmund Sanders
  • Filmmaker Emad Burnat near the village of Bilin in the West Bank.
Filmmaker Emad Burnat near the village of Bilin in the West Bank. (Edmund Sanders / Los Angeles…)

JERUSALEM -- West Bank filmmaker Emad Burnat is hoping to make history Sunday by becoming the first Palestinian to win an Oscar, but he almost missed the chance to attend the ceremony when immigration officials at Los Angeles International Airport initially balked at letting him in the country.

Burnat, 41, co-director of the documentary "5 Broken Cameras," was held up at LAX early Wednesday with his wife and 8-year-old son, both of whom are featured in his film about a family’s struggle against a separation wall built by Israel through the village of Bilin.

The film, co-directed with Israeli activist Guy Davidi, has been nominated for best documentary.

Like many Palestinians, Burnat frequently encounters difficulties traveling because many countries, including the U.S., do not recognize a state of Palestine.

Unlike many Palestinians, however, Burnat has made new and powerful friends over the last two years, traveling around the world to promote his film.

So when problems arose, he sent an urgent message to filmmaker Michael Moore.

"Apparently the Immigration & Customs officers couldn't understand how a Palestinian could be an Oscar nominee," Moore wrote on his Facebook page. "Emad texted me for help."

After calls were made to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences officials and attorneys, the situation was resolved after 90 minutes and Burnat entered the country, Moore wrote. A spokeswoman for the film confirmed the incident.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times last month, Burnat said he was looking forward to his first trip to Los Angeles and the chance to attend the famed ceremony.

He said his wife bought a dress for the big night and that he was hoping for a red-carpet run-in with actress Jennifer Lopez.


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