Syrian Subjects of Nominated Doc 'White Helmets' Not Attending Oscars After Trump Ban
"They’ve been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize — these people are the bravest humanitarians on the planet," said producer Joanna Natasegara.
Rallies have erupted at airports across the country to protest President Donald Trump's immigration and travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries, which includes an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees from entering the U.S.
The filmmakers behind the Syria-set Oscar-nominated doc short White Helmets were planning on bringing two of the subjects of their film to February's awards show. Due to the recent executive legislation, however, this is no longer possible.
“We have always said that if we were to be nominated, we would bring Raed Saleh, the head of the White Helmets, who has spoken many times in D.C., and Khaled Khateeb, the young cinematographer who risked his life over and over again, as our guests," producer Joanna Natasegara said Saturday in a statement.
White Helmets, directed by Orlando von Einsiedel, documents the efforts of the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, a group of volunteer rescue workers who rush in after attacks to try and save people amid the ruins.
"They’ve been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize — these people are the bravest humanitarians on the planet, and the idea that they could not be able to come with us and enjoy that success is just abhorrent,” added Natasegara.
A second Oscar-nominated doc short centering on the Syrian refugee crisis, Marcel Mettelsiefen's Watani: My Homeland, follows the lives of a refugee family as they relocate from Aleppo to their new home in Germany.
In a statement of his own, Mettelsiefen had this to say: "This travel ban from President Trump is another devastating blow to refugees who have already suffered so much. As Trump seeks to demonize refugees and Muslim people in general, films such as Watani: My Homeland, which tell the human story of refugees, become ever more important."
He concluded: "We must reconnect with the common humanity of the refugee experience and we must all remember that the founding story of America is dependent upon people who have fled war, hunger and poverty in search of a better life.”