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In LA For the Oscars, Palestinian Director and Nominee Detained at LAX

By Kim Baldonado
|  Thursday, Feb 21, 2013  |  Updated 2:21 PM CDT
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Immigration officials briefly detained the Palestinian director of an Oscar-nominated documentary on his way into Los Angeles for Sunday's Academy Awards.  Kim Baldonado reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Feb. 20, 2013.

Kim Baldonado, Tom Bravo, Rodney Danson

Immigration officials briefly detained the Palestinian director of an Oscar-nominated documentary on his way into Los Angeles for Sunday's Academy Awards. Kim Baldonado reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Feb. 20, 2013.

Immigration officials briefly detained the Palestinian director of an Oscar-nominated documentary on his way into Los Angeles for Sunday's Academy Awards.

Emad Burnat said that when he arrived at Los Angeles International Airport from Turkey with his wife and 8-year-old son late Tuesday, he was told he didn't have the proper proof that he was a nominee.

"I had many emails from the Academy Awards and the invitation in my iPhone, but they didn't pay attention to what I was saying," Burnat told NBC4 News.

In a written statement, Burnat said he was detained for 40 minutes but in on-camera interviews, he doubled that to an hour and a half.

"They want me to give them more proof and more documents. I told them I had the visa, and I had the hotel reservation, and the flights, and everything," Burnat said. "They told me if you don't come up with the documents, we would send you back."

In a written statement released Wednesday, Burnant said he could "see his (son's) heart sink" at the possibility that the group would have to return to Turkey and forgo the awards ceremony.

Burnat had just been in the United States two weeks earlier doing interviews alongside his "5 Broken Cameras" co-director, Israeli activist Guy Davidi.

He and his family were ultimately allowed access into the country.

Several questions remain about Burnat's version of the events. He told others that he was not allowed to use his cellphone, but somehow managed to get a text out to fellow director Michael Moore.

In a statement, U.S. Customs officials said they cannot speak about specific cases but, in general, people are referred for further inspection if there are questions about their identity of their intent to travel.

Burnat said that though the questioning was "an unpleasant experience," checkpoints and travel barriers are common for Palestinians in the West Bank.

"5 Broken Cameras" features footage Burnat shot in his occupied West Bank village, from everyday activities with his family to protests and shootings.

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