Syrian Oscar contender Khaled Kateeb barred from entering US
US immigration authorities have barred entry to a 21-year-old Syrian cinematographer who worked on a harrowing film about his nation’s civil war, The White Helmets, that has been nominated for an Academy Award.
According to internal Trump administration correspondence seen by Associated Press, homeland security officials decided at the last minute to block Khaled Khateeb from traveling to Los Angeles for the Oscars.
Khateeb was scheduled to arrive on Saturday in Los Angeles on a Turkish Airlines flight departing from Istanbul. But his plans have been upended after US officials reported finding “derogatory information” regarding Khateeb.
Derogatory information is a broad category that can include anything from terror connections to passport irregularities. Asked for comment, a spokeswoman for the department of homeland security, Gillian Christensen, said, “A valid travel document is required for travel to the United States.”
The White Helmets, a 40-minute Netflix documentary, has been nominated for best documentary short. If the film wins the Oscar, the award would go to director Orlando von Einsiedel and producer Joanna Natasegara. Khateeb is one of three people credited for cinematography; Franklin Dow is the film’s director of photography.
The film focuses on the rescue workers who risk their lives to save Syrians affected by civil war. Many of the group’s members have been killed by Syrian president Bashar Assad’s air forces. The group also was nominated for last year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
The White Helmets includes emblematic scenes of the deadly six-year-old conflict: people digging through destroyed homes looking for survivors, at constant risk of “double tap” attacks that target first responders after they’ve arrived at the scene of a strike.
Khateeb had been issued a visa to attend the ceremony with Hollywood’s biggest stars. But Turkish authorities detained him this week, according to the internal US government correspondence, and he suddenly needed a passport waiver from the United States to enter the country.
The correspondence indicated he would not receive such a waiver. There was no explanation in the correspondence for why Turkey detained Khateeb.
The move comes amid growing anger among the global film-making community at Donald Trump’s policies.
At a rally against the travel ban in Beverly Hills on Friday, Oscar-winning actor Jodie Foster told demonstrators it was “our time to resist”.
The Silence Of The Lambs star, who was joined by fellow actors Michael J Fox and Keegan-Michael Key, said: “I’m not somebody who feels very comfortable using my public face for activism. This year is a very different year and it’s time to show up.
“We know the first attack on democracy is an assault on free expression and civil liberties and this relentless war on truth.
“It’s our time to show up and demand answers. It’s our time to tell our elected officials to do their job.
“We will not tolerate chaos, ineptitude and war-mongering.”