Update: On February 28, the State Department granted an appeal that allowed Abeed and two Syrian cinematographers who worked on the film to fly to Los Angeles. The filmmakers were able to attend the Oscars ceremony on March 4.
In recent weeks, American Documentary has learned that the film Last Men in Aleppo, its filmmakers and its film subjects have come under online attacks, while the producer Kareem Abeed, a Syrian national, has been prevented from entering the U.S. and will be unable to attend this year’s Oscars on March 4, where his film is nominated in the Best Documentary Feature category.
Abeed, along with director Feras Fayyad, have already made history with their film, becoming the first Syrian nationals nominated in the category. Last Men in Aleppo is a devastating portrait of lives under siege, following a group of volunteer first responders called the White Helmets as they rescue citizens out of their country’s rubble. Their actions are surely heroic, yet the film is less a glorifying tribute than an intimate, grueling glimpse into lives led in a war zone.
Nevertheless, online partisans—mainly in the pro-Russia and pro-Assad camps—have accused the filmmakers and the film subjects of being terrorist sympathizers, while the Syrian government has refused to expedite Abeed’s travel visa application. Even if his travel visa were secured, Executive Order 13780, also known as the “travel ban” that has halted new visa applications from Syrian citizens and other foreign nationals, makes it unclear if Abeed would be granted permission to enter the U.S.
We stand with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the International Documentary Association, both of which have voiced their support for Abeed, Fayyad and the subjects of Last Men in Aleppo. We are proud to have worked with the film and to have shone a spotlight on the Syrian war last year, presenting the film to audiences, classrooms and communities across the country through our public television series ‘POV.’ Each year we give Americans a window into the lives of people from all over the world, and this year’s Oscar nomination for Last Men in Aleppo reaffirms the brave filmmaking of Fayyad and Abeed.
In making their film, Fayyad and Abeed sought to document the personal toll of war. We support their every effort to tell this story.