On Wednesday evening Burnat was detained at Los Angeles International Airport for an hour and a half while he was on his way to attend the 85th Oscar Award Ceremony.
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"I have been in America a number of times, but this is the first time anything like this has happened to me," Burnat said after sleeping for a few hours.
"My son asked what was going on; I explained that they might not let us pass, and that there is a chance we will be sent back. He took it very hard, he was very tired, we had been traveling for more than two days, and neither of us could even begin to think about getting back on a 15-hour return flight."
According to Burnat, the treatment he received upon his arrival at LAX was degrading: "They put me in a room full of other people, as if I was under arrest or something. It didn't matter how many times I told them I was nominated for an Oscar; I showed them all of the emails I had on my phone, but they didn’t still didn't believe me.
Doesn't 'look Oscar-ish enough'
Unwillingly, Burnat began pulling what strings he had: "I texted a number of people requesting their assistance," he said. One of those people was documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, who immediately tweeted the event to his million plus followers.
"Emad Burnat, Palestinian director of Oscar nominated 5 Broken Cameras, was held Wednesday by immigration at LAX as he landed to attend the Oscars. Emad, his wife and eight-year-old son were placed in a holding area and told they didn’t have the proper invitation on them to attend the Oscars," Moore tweeted.
"Although he produced the Oscar invite nominees receive, that wasn’t good enough & he was threatened with being sent back to Palestine... Apparently the Immigration & Customs officers couldn’t understand how a Palestinian could be an Oscar nominee," Moore wrote. "I called Academy officials who called lawyers. I told Emad to give the officers my phone number and to say my name a couple of times."
Guy Davidi, the films co-director, was with Moore when he received Burnat's text message. "We were at a dinner being held for all the nominees, a dinner Emad was also scheduled to attend but managed to arrive only towards its end.
"He constantly gets delayed, especially when he travels with his wife, who wears traditional Muslim garb. Some passports are worth more than others. This is what happened to a director who speaks three languages and was invited to the Oscars. Imagine what happens to someone who can't text Michael Moore."
Burnat was released after an hour and a half, a relatively short period of time, according to him.
"We have waited for hours at the Allenby Bridge (connecting Israel and the West Bank to Jordan), and then in Amman, and then again in Istanbul. At times I have waited an entire day at the Allenby Bridge, this is my life," he said.
When asked about his son, Burnat replied: "He is sad. He is an eight-year-old who has yet to know a single day of freedom. All I want is for his future to be brighter than my present."
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