Michael Moore couldn’t save Flint, Michigan’s auto plants in the ’80s — but he did help to get Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat released from LAX’s detention room last night. Burnat is currently up for a Best Documentary Oscar for his film 5 Broken Cameras.
Burnat and his family arrived in Los Angeles last night in order to attend this week’s Academy Awards ceremony. But before they could exit the city’s main airport, they were “held at US immigration for about an hour and questioned about the purpose of my visit to the United States,” Burnat said in a statement. “Immigration officials asked for proof that I was nominated for an Academy Award…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.”
Luckily, Burnat was able to send a text to Michael Moore, one of the Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s Documentary Branch. As Moore explained on his blog Wednesday, he got in touch with the Academy, which soon got its attorney on Burnat’s case. Moore contacted the State Department as well. Finally, the filmmaker wrote, “after being held for somewhere between one and two hours, with repeated suggestions that the U.S. may not let him into the country — saying that they may send him back home — the authorities relented and released Emad and his family.”
For what it’s worth, Deadline disputes this version of events; an “insider” told the news site that Burnat was released before the Academy got involved. Either way, the Palestinian director says that his detention wasn’t anything he hasn’t experienced before: “Although this was an unpleasant experience, this is a daily occurrence for Palestinians, every single day, throughout he West Bank,” his statement continued. “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.”
This year’s Academy Awards ceremony will take place Sunday, Feb. 24 at 8:30 p.m. ET. Moore is also hosting a live discussion with this year’s nominated documentarians at the Academy’s theater tonight at 7:30pm PT; Emad Burnat will be present.