Cinematographer of Oscar-Nominated Film ‘The White Helmets’ Denied U.S. Entry
Last month, it was revealed that Academy Award-nominated director Asghar Farhadi would probably not be able to attend this year’s ceremony due to President Donald Trump’s travel ban. After careful consideration, Farhadi decided to skip the Oscars regardless of the circumstances, noting that any possible exception made for him would be accompanied by “ifs and buts which are in no way acceptable.” While people quickly arranged protest screenings of Farhadi’s The Salesman around the country, his circumstances served as a frightening preview of how even prominent artists from around the world could be treated until the new immigration guidelines.
And Farhadi was only the first. Early this morning, The Guardian (via Vulture) reported that The White Helmets cinematographer Khaled Khateeb had been banned entry to the United States due to officials discovering nebulous “derogatory information” in his past. The White Helmets — a nominee in the category of Best Documentary Short Subjects — follows a group of volunteer humanitarians in Syria who serve as first respondents to bombings and acts of violence. At only 21 years of age, Khateeb has served as a videographer for the White Helmets before agreeing to help shoot the Netflix documentary film.
As Vulture notes, Khateeb had previously published a statement in Entertainment Weekly explaining his decision to attend this year’s Academy Awards and the importance of getting the word out about the White Helmets. “If I cannot enter the U.S.,” Khateeb wrote, “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.” Khateeb’s statement also acknowledges the important role played by the White Helmets — the organization and the documentary — in informing the world about the atrocities that have happened in cities like Aleppo.
At their best, award shows serve to celebrate individuals like Khaled Khateeb, people who risk their personal safety to help tell powerful and moving stories about the rest of the world. While this turn of events is another blow to the pride most Americans take in being an open and welcoming country, there is one silver lining: The White Helmets is available on Netflix to stream right now. What better way to support Khateeb’s work than giving up 40 minutes of your weekend to watch his film?