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GOODMAN: Israel, Palestine and the Oscars

  • Emad Burnat, co-director of the documentary film, “5 Broken Cameras,” is shown displaying his five broken cameras. Immigration officials briefly detained the Palestinian director of the Oscar-nominated documentary on his way into Los Angeles for Sunday’s Academy Awards. (KINO LORBER, INC)

The Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday will make history this year with the first-ever nomination of a feature documentary made by a Palestinian. “5 Broken Cameras” was filmed and directed by Emad Burnat, a resident of the occupied Palestinian West Bank town of Bil’in, along with his Israeli filmmaking partner Guy Davidi.

What does a Palestinian farmer wear on the red carpet in Hollywood? We were almost prevented from knowing, as Burnat, his wife and 8-year-old son were detained at Los Angeles International Airport and threatened with deportation. Despite his formal invitation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, it took the intervention of Oscar-winning documentarian Michael Moore, who now sits on the Academy Board of Governors, followed by Academy attorneys, for Burnat and his family to gain entry into the country.

“5 Broken Cameras” is in competition at the Oscars with an Israeli documentary, “The Gatekeepers,” a film that features interviews with the six surviving former directors of Israel’s Shin Bet, the country’s secret internal security service, which functions as a sort of hybrid of the FBI and CIA. In the film, all six condemn the current practices of Israeli occupation and settlement expansion.

In a remarkable case of life imitating art, as celebrities gather for the entertainment industry’s biggest gala of the year, the Israel/Palestine conflict is being played out on the streets of Tinseltown.

Hours after regaining his freedom, Burnat issued a statement that read: “Last night, on my way from Turkey to Los Angeles, my family and I were held at U.S. immigration for about an hour and questioned about the purpose of my visit to the United States. 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.”

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