Khaled Khateeb, the Syrian cinematographer who worked on the Oscar-nominated film The White Helmets, has been barred from attending the awards show on Sunday, February 26.
The Associated Press reported that the Department of Homeland Security has blocked Khateeb, 21, from entering the United States after finding "derogatory information," a vague term that can include anything from passport irregularities to terror connections. When the news outlet asked a spokeswoman for the federal agency about the findings, she said, "A valid travel document is required for travel to the United States."
Khateeb was scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 25, on a Turkish Airlines flight departing from Istanbul. He had previously been issued a visa to attend the Oscars but, at the last minute, was told he needed a passport waiver from the U.S. to enter the country. Citing internal correspondence from President Donald Trump's administration, the AP reported that the filmmaker "would not receive" the necessary waiver, but further explanation was not provided.
The White Helmets, a 40-minute Netflix documentary chronicling Syria's civil war, is nominated for Best Documentary Short. Should the film win the Oscar on Sunday night, director Orlando von Einsiedel and producer Joanna Natasegara would be presented with the award, according to the AP.
After Trump, 70, signed his executive order on immigration earlier this month, Khateeb vowed to attend the Oscars, in a statement issued to Entertainment Weekly. His comments came after Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian filmmaker behind the Oscar-nominated film The Salesman, announced his plans to protest the ceremony, whether he would be allowed to enter the U.S. or not.
"I plan to travel to L.A. for the Oscars, where the film is nominated for an award," Khateeb previously said. "If I cannot enter the U.S., I will not give up: We know that we have many friends in the U.S., that there are people that share our humanitarian values. I look forward to meeting them all one day."
Farhadi, 44, and his fellow Best Foreign Language Film nominees released a joint statement on Friday, February 24, to address the current political climate. "On behalf of all nominees, we would like to express our unanimous and empathic disapproval of the climate of fanaticism and nationalism we see today in the U.S. and in so many other countries, in part of the population and, most unfortunately of all, among leading politicians," Farhadi, Denmark's Martin Zandvliet (Land of Mine), Sweden's Hannes Holm (A Man Called Ove), Germany's Maren Ade (Toni Erdmann) and Australia's Martin Butler and Bentley Dean (Tanna) said, per JustJared.
"Human rights are not something you have to apply for," the directors continued. "They simply exist — for everybody. For this reason, we dedicate this award to all the people, artists, journalists and activists who are working to foster unity and understanding, and who uphold freedom of expression and human dignity — values whose protection is now more important than ever. By dedicating the Oscar to them, we wish to express to them our deep respect and solidarity."
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