IDA comes to defense of 'Last Men in Aleppo' filmmakers, slams Trump administration for denying travel visa to producer
IDA joins Motion Picture Academy protesting visa denial
The International Documentary Association is defending -- on two fronts -- the Syrian filmmakers behind Last Men in Aleppo and the subjects of their documentary, the courageous White Helmets.
The IDA issued a statement Tuesday criticizing the Trump administration's decision to deny a travel visa to Kareem Abeed, producer of the Oscar-nominated documentary. The State Department reportedly denied the application in accordance with the administration's immigration ban on several predominantly Muslim countries, including Syria.
We at the International Documentary Association stand behind Fayyad and Abeed.
"We urge the State Department and the Trump Administration to reconsider the decision and grant Abeed a visa," the IDA wrote.
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences issued a similar statement Tuesday:
"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."
Film features array of world-class athletes powered by plant-based diet
Only a few weeks after its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, the documentary The Game Changers is making its international debut at the Berlinale.
Oscar-winning filmmaker Louie Psihoyos directed the film which makes a compelling case for the positive health and environmental impacts of switching to a vegan diet. It's packed with elite athletes, including NFL players, Olympians and mixed martial artist James Wilks, who all testify to the transformative effect of going plant-based.
A new teaser for the film was released Monday, the day of The Game Changers' Berlin Film Festival debut. Watch it below.
Sundance winner 'Of Fathers and Sons': Director takes huge risk to expose life in Syrian Jihadist family
Syrian filmmaker Talal Derki poses as radical Islamist to gain access to fundamentalist clan
At any point in a two-and-a-half year stretch of filming, director Talal Derki could have lost his life making Of Fathers and Sons.
He took extraordinary risks to complete the documentary, the story of 45-year-old Abu Osama, one of the founders of the Syrian Jihadist group al-Nusra, and his young sons. To penetrate the world of this radical Islamist family, Derki posed as a believer himself who wanted to document Osama and his children to further al-Nusra's militant goals.
"I don't have that much background in religion so I told them that 'the light of jihad came to my eyes and you are right and I'm here to learn. At the same time with my camera I can help make [films] for you,'" Derki explained in an interview with Nonfictionfilm.com at the Sundance Film Festival, where Of Fathers and Sons held its U.S. premiere.
How can a kid like 10 years old dream of caliphate instead of having a normal life, playing around or doing some sports? So they are victims in this war.
This ruse allowed him to reveal in intimate detail the influence of a fundamentalist ideology that constitutes one dimension in the chaos of Syria's Civil War.
"I wanted to penetrate the psychology and the emotions of this war, understand what made people radicalize and what drives them to live under the strict rules of an Islamic state," Derki wrote in a director's statement. "Although I am an atheist, I prayed with them every day and led the life of a good Muslim to find out what is happening in my country."
Director Feras Fayyad points finger at Trump administration travel ban
The Oscar-nominated producer and one of the key subjects of Last Men in Aleppo will be kept from attending the Academy Awards, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
"The Syrian government has refused to expedite the travel visa process for producer Kareem Abeed and White Helmets founding member Mahmoud Al-Hattar, who is featured in the film," according to the report published Wednesday.
Syrian-born director Feras Fayyad, who now makes his home in Denmark, will be able to attend. He blamed the Trump administration's travel ban on several predominantly Muslim countries for the probable absence of Abeed and Al-Hattar.
"Kareem, my producer and fellow nominee, cannot come to the U.S. because of the Trump travel ban," Fayyad told The Hollywood Reporter. "Barring a miracle, he will not be at the Oscars with me. We are artists and we just want to share our stories and nothing more. It's very sad he won't have an opportunity to share his."
Abeed and Al-Hattar have a visa application interview scheduled with Syrian authorities on March 2, just two days before the Academy Awards ceremony, according to the report. Even if they were to obtain a visa at that late date, they would run into President Trump's Executive Order 13780, which bans new visa applications from Syrian citizens.
Last Men in Aleppo focuses on the brave civil defense workers known as the White Helmets who try to rescue those injured in relentless bombing campaigns by Russian and Syrian government forces.
Al-Hattar, the White Helmets founding member, told The Hollywood Reporter he had hoped to use the Oscar platform to condemn “Russia, Assad and everyone who represents the authorities and supplies weapons to suppress the people of Syria.”
Black Russian cocktail among libations offered -- nod to Oscar-nominated documentary's role in Russia's ban from Winter Games
If not for the documentary Icarus, the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea might have had a different character.
Athletes from more than 90 countries marched into the stadium in Pyeongchang Friday night, including competitors from Russia, but there was no Russian flag among the many nations represented. That's because Russia is formally banned from the Games, largely as a result of Bryan Fogel's documentary.
I was actually invited to go to the Games and I'd love to but I'm unable to with timing.
Icarus, one of five films in the running for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, exposed the vast state-sponsored athletics doping program that Russia engaged in for years. The International Olympic Committee cited the documentary and other corroborating evidence in a report explaining its decision to punish Russia for the elaborate cheating scheme. Russian athletes are competing under the Olympic flag instead of their country's banner.
Fogel tells Nonfictionfilm.com the IOC's ban on Russia sounds harsher than it actually is.
"I was actually invited to go to the Games and I'd love to but I'm unable to with timing. I'll certainly be following it with greater interest this year because while Russia, technically, was banned from the Games there have been myriad loopholes within that ban that is allowing now 150 or so Russian athletes to compete neutrally," he stated. "To myself and my team [that] has been kind of a slap in the face to the overall scandal and conspiracy that was perpetrated against clean athletes and sport for the last 40 years."
Below are some pictures from the Opening Ceremonies viewing party at the Hollywood Athletic Club. All pictures by Matt Carey.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.