Syrian filmmakers Feras Fayyad and Kareem Abeed have already made Academy Awards history, as the first Syrian directing-producing team to be nominated for an Oscar. But should their film win Best Documentary Feature at this week’s ceremony, producer Abeed will not be able to accept the award in person because his visa to enter the U.S. for the event has been denied:
According to The Wrap, Abeed received word he was "found ineligible for a visa under Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act." Abeed's rejection comes in the wake of President Trump's travel ban, which puts restrictions on Syria, as well as North Korea, Iran, Chad, Libya, Venezuela, and Yemen.
"It's difficult to understand how such a decision can be justified," Ryan Krivoshey, the president of the movie's US distributor Grasshopper Film, told Business Insider in a statement. "The filmmakers have risked their lives to show the world what is happening in their homeland. We should be honoring their bravery and courage, not denying them entry to our country."
"Films like this are the only way we can use our voices to speak out against this war,” Fayyad said about Last Men in Aleppo, their Syrian civil war documentary about rescuers who save civilians trapped in rubble. “We are doing what Americans have done for so long and that is to use art as a space and a platform for changing. And what the government is doing is building a wall to control art." In response, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said it stands "in solidarity" with the pair:
"For 90 years, the Oscars have celebrated achievement in the art of filmmaking, which seeks to transcend borders and speak to audiences around the world, regardless of national, ethnic, or religious differences. As supporters of filmmakers — and the human rights of all people — around the globe, we stand in solidarity with Fayyad as well as the film’s producer Kareem Abeed, who was denied a visa to the United States to attend the Academy Awards on March 4.”
According to Business Insider, Fayyad is working out of San Francisco, so he will most likely be able to attend. But aside from the producer, another important figure from the film will also be missing: “The White Helmets co-founder, Mahmoud Al-Hatter, who is featured in the movie, was reportedly unable to apply for a Syrian passport to attend the Oscars as Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his supporters have called The White Helmets a front for Al-Qaeda.”