Posted by on February 22, 2013 in Blog

By Jade Zoghbi

Spring 2013 Intern

Could a shift in this year’s Oscar nominations indicate a shift in the public’s understanding of the Israeli occupation? The nominated documentaries will humble, educate, and surprise you. But the travel experience of Palestinian nominee Emad Burnat almost derailed the whole thing.

Imagine how many foreigners feel when they arrive to the United States. It is in the demeanor and words, in the doubtful look which accompanies the questioning of passengers at the airport’s immigration and custom lines—here, a subtle glimpse or a straightforward questioning is where individuals are often degraded. Passengers with Arab names, passport stamps from Arab countries, whether American or Arab citizens, are subject to incidents like these every day. In countries troubled by occupations, these checkpoints and security measures are a daily dose of humiliation. Fame does not often offer refuge for security and comfort in travel.

Emad Burnat (41), a resident of the occupied Palestinian West Bank town of Bil’in, is the Palestinian documentary co-director and Academy Award nominee for the film “5 Broken Cameras.” He and his family, his wife Soraya, and their son Gibreel (8) were on their way to Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony when the family was stopped and threatened to be sent back home from the Los Angeles International Airport.

The officials questioned the purpose of Burnat’s visit to the US and requested proof of his Academy Award nomination.

However, Burnat reached out to filmmaker Michael Moore, who holds a position on the Academy Board of Governors and who helped him immediately. Moore shared the news on Twitter saying that "Apparently the Immigration & Customs officers couldn't understand how a Palestinian could be an Oscar nominee…". After several calls, the situation was eventually resolved and the family entered the US. 

For a chance to see the first nominated feature documentary by a Palestinian, “Five Broken Cameras”, the National Archives will be hosting a free screening on Sunday February 24th  at 4:00 PM.

Equally surprising is the fact that another nomination went to the documentary film “The Gatekeepers” by Israeli director Dror Moreh. It documents the story of Israel’s secret service agency Shin Bet and the six former leaders of the organizations, who speak up, condemn the occupation and expansion of Israeli forces.

The nominations bring to the public eye another truth to the Israeli/Palestine relationship.  We hope the audience will be attentive to these two important works as they reveal the courage, survival, daily life, and dire consequences of the decades-long struggle of the young and old residents in the region.

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