Academy Award-winning director Michael Moore took to Twitter Tuesday to defend his friend who was detained at Los Angeles International Airport because, he said, officials didn’t believe the Palestinian filmmaker was in town for the Academy Awards.
Emad Burnat, whose film “5 Broken Cameras” has been nominated for Best Documentary Feature, was held for an hour and a half and questioned by LAX officials about his visit to Los Angeles, Moore said.
“This all just happened tonight, a few hours ago,” Moore tweeted to his 1.4 million followers Tuesday. “He was certain they were going to deport him. But not if I had anything to do about it.”
Moore tweeted that he called Academy officials, who called lawyers, who contacted LAX to speak on Burnat’s behalf.
“I told Emad to give the officers my phone number and to say my name a couple of times,” Moore said.
Burnat and his family were eventually released and told he could stay in Los Angeles for the week and attend the 85th Academy Awards Sunday, Burnat said in a written statement today.
“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,” he said.
Burnat said he’s used to being detained because it is a “daily occurrence” in the West Bank.
“Although this was an unpleasant experience, this is a daily occurrence for Palestinians, every single day, throughout the West Bank,” Burnat said. “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.”
When his family asked why they were still in the waiting room, Burnat said he had to tell his wife and son that they might be sent back home.
“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,” said Burnat, a farmer and freelance cameraman,
In a statement, U.S. Customs said, “Due to privacy laws, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is prohibited from discussing specific cases. CBP strives to treat all travelers with respect and in a professional manner, while maintaining the focus of our mission to protect all citizens and visitors in the United States.”
A source in the department said Burnat was detained for no more than 25 minutes and that he was never threatened in any way. He responded to a “natural” line of questioning that is customary practice, the source said.
Burnat’s “5 Broken Cameras” provides a first-hand account of non-violent resistance in Bil’in, a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements. It is the first Palestinian documentary ever nominated for an Oscar.