Oscar nominated Syrian filmmaker blocked from US entry

Khaled Kateeb was a cinematographer on the film ‘The White Helmets’

The Oscar nominated Syrian filmmaker Khaled Kateeb has been blocked from entering the US.

Kateeb was due to arrive in Los Angeles for the Academy Awards ceremony on Saturday but was barred entry on the grounds of “derogatory information”.

“Derogatory information” is an ambiguous term which could signify a variety of reasons for detention, from errors in documentation to possible terror connections. According to internal correspondence seen by the Associated Press, Turkish authorities detained the filmmaker last week, despite having a visa to travel to California for the ceremony. He was then expected to file a last minute passport-waiver.

Homeland security spokeswoman Gillian Christensen commented to the Guardian, “A valid travel document is required for travel to the United States.”

The 21-year-old cinematographer is nominated for the category Best Documentary Short for his film The White Helmets, which looks at the efforts of rescue workers in the Syrian civil war. The film was also nominated for last year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The documentary is directed by Orlando von Einsiedel and produced by Joanna Natasegara.

Kateeb is not the only filmmaker who has struggled to attend this year’s Oscars due to the Trump administration’s so-called ‘Muslim ban’. Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, who made the Oscar nominated film The Salesman, has chosen not to attend the 89th Academy Awards, even if an exception were made, due to the “in no way acceptable” ambiguity surrounding his entry into the US.

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