A handwritten log maintained by federal agents at Los Angeles International Airport indicates that agents detained a Palestinian filmmaker for 23 minutes on his way to the Academy Awards.
Filmmaker Michael Moore wrote on Twitter that airport authorities “couldn’t understand how a Palestinian could be an Oscar nominee.” He also wrote that they had held the filmmaker, Emad Burnat, for “1.5 hours,” and released him after Moore advised him to drop Moore’s name and called Academy officials.
Burnat also wrote on Facebook that “my family and I were…made to justify our travel to the United States despite holding valid visas and despite widely available public knowledge affirming that my reason for traveling to Los Anglees was that I was in fact an Oscar nominee.”
But while there is nothing in the log to contradict Burnat’s account or his gratitude to Moore for leaping to his aid, the document does suggest that Moore overstated, at least, the length of the incident. The filmmaker’s tweets originally drew complaints from an airport official that Moore was overhyping a routine, and relatively brief, incident. That account, in turn, prompted Moore to accuse BuzzFeed (and presumably the source) of dishonesty.
Airport officials Tuesday agreed to show BuzzFeed the agency’s log from February 19, whose timeline appears to confirm the original source’s claim.
According to the log, which is kept in the secondary inspection area at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal:
5:28pm: Burnat was referred to secondary inspection
5:30pm: Burnat was admitted to secondary inspection
5:53pm: Burnat was released from secondary inspection
Officials at LAX made the logbook available and five officials spoke to BuzzFeed on the condition of anonymity, citing a policy against discussing individual cases. (A spokesman for Customs and Border Protection declined to comment on the incident.)
Today, a publicist for Five Broken Cameras said he did not dispute the timeline presented, but rather wondered “why he was held at all.”
According, one official said, to the report of the officer involved in the incident, Burnat was asked the purpose of his visit, and said he was in the country to attend the Academy Awards, because a film he directed was nominated. He was asked if he had a physical invitation letter, and did not, but instead presented a copy of the invitation on his smartphone, according to the report. Burnat mentioned during inspection that his film had won an award at the Sundance Film Festival, according to the report.
(Moore cited BuzzFeed’s source’s original claim that Burnat had produced a “ticket” as evidence that the story was fabricated. “Nobody, no nominee, had their tickets on Tuesday because the Academy didn’t release them to Oscar-goers until 2 days later — on Thursday,” he wrote. The original source said Tuesday that he had been referring to the digital copy of the invitation as a “ticket.”)
The officer “determined Burnat was a bona fide visitor to the U.S.” and “wished him good luck at the Academy awards,” the report said.
The film’s publicist, Rodrigo Brandão, did not dispute the timeline, but said it did not include the time it took Burnat to advance through the first inspection station, including time spent waiting in line.
And Burnat compared the moment to Palestinian experiences at Israeli border crossings.
“Although this was an unpleasant experience, this is a daily occurrence for Palestinians, every single day, throughout he West Bank. There are more than 500 Israeli checkpoints, roadblocks, and other barriers to movement across our land, and not a single one of us has been spared the experience that my family and I experienced yesterday. Ours was a very minor example of what my people face every day.”
Moore said he would send his reaction to the log’s timeline shortly.
UPDATE: Moore confirmed to The Atlantic Wire Tuesday that he had exaggerated the timeline. The piece, framed as a defense of Moore, also makes no attempt to establish that agents “could not believe” that Burnat was an acclaimed filmmaker.