US immigration officials briefly detained the Palestinian director of the Oscar-nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras on his way into Los Angeles for Sunday’s Academy Awards.
Emad Burnat said that when he arrived at Los Angeles International Airport from Turkey with his wife and eight-year-old son late on Tuesday, he was told he did not have the proper proof that he was a nominee.
“Last night, on my way from Turkey to Los Angeles … 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,” he said in a statement.
“Although this was an unpleasant experience, this is a daily occurrence for Palestinians, every single day, throughout the West Bank.”
Burnat had earlier spent nearly six hours at an Israeli checkpoint as he attempted to drive to Amman to catch his flight to the US.
His detention in the US was first reported by filmmaker Michael Moore, a friend of Burnat‘s, who said he received an urgent text message from Burnat from a holding pen at the airport.
According to Moore’s blog post, the director told Burnat to give Homeland Security his name and cell phone number to have him explain why Burnat was in the US.
Burnat had just been in the US two weeks earlier doing interviews alongside his co-director, Israeli activist Guy Davidi.
The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) did not comment on the case but said in a statement that it “strives to treat all travellers with respect and in a professional manner, while maintaining the focus of our mission to protect all citizens and visitors in the United States.
“Travellers may be referred for further inspection for a variety of reasons to include identity verification, intent of travel, and confirmation of admissibility.”
5 Broken Cameras features footage Burnat shot in his occupied West Bank village, Bilin – from everyday activities with his family to protests against the occupation and shootings.
The title refers to the number of smashed cameras since he began filming.
Village of protest
Bilin, a village near Ramallah, has organised weekly protests since 2005 when Israel began construction of its separation wall – a high concrete wall with guard towers and razor wire – meant to mark the border between Israel and the West Bank.
The route of the wall, however, is not along the internationally-accepted “Green Line” that marks the border; instead, it winds deep into the West Bank in some areas.
In Bilin, the wall’s path annexes 60 percent of the village’s land – much of it agricultural – for nearby, illegal Israeli settlements.
Faced with economic hardship from the annexation, villagers began protesting every Friday by marching from the centre of the village after prayers to the wall.
The protests, attended by villagers, other Palestinians, international activists and even Israeli activists, have been met by the Israeli army with teargas, rubber-coated steel bullets, “skunk” water cannon, live ammunition and arrests.
Two residents of the village have been killed in the protests. Hundreds more have been injured, and dozens from the village have been arrested for their participation.
Residents of Bilin have brought their case to the Israeli supreme court, and despite numerous rulings that found the current route of the wall is illegal, they have not recovered all of the land that was confiscated.