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‘The White Helmets’ Heroes Unlikely To Attend Oscars Despite Trump Travel Ban Stall

Deadline logo Deadline 2/6/2017 Diana Lodderhose
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Donald Trump’s travel banmay have been temporarily suspended by a U.S. federal judge, but the heroes that are the subjects of Netflix’s Best Documentary Short Subject Oscar nominee The White Helmets are still unlikely to attend the ceremony February 26.

The Nobel Peace Prize-nominated warriors, who have saved more than 60,000 civilian lives in war-torn Syria, are “increasingly unlikely” to be allowed to join the big day, the film’s producer Joanna Natasegara and director Orlando von Einsiedel told Deadline. They had initially planned to take Raed Saleh, the leader of the politically neutral volunteer rescue squad, and cinematographer Khaled Khateeb — both Syrian nationals — to the event in Los Angeles when nominations were first announced in January.

“They were hugely excited,” says von Einsiedel of the group, also known as the Syrian Civil Defense. “We always thought that if we received an accolade like this, we would have of course wanted them to join us. The incredible privilege and platform the Oscars gives us to further champion the work of The White Helmets was fantastic. And now they’re not able to come, it seems such a lost opportunity for them to be celebrated and recognized.”

He adds, “It’s a loss of duty for America. The voices of these Syrian heroes and others like them are so important in understanding the current situation we find ourselves in and they bridge the understanding between countries like Syria.”

Natasegara points to the feelings of dishonor that have afflicted such honorable men. “I feel very embarrassed by this and you see what kind of affect this has on people who have already suffered so much… There’s a complete sense of indignity there that is so offensive and so damaging in ways you can’t see.”

She adds that the light of hope that creators would be able to attend the event with the Syrian heroes was “dimming to a small flicker.”

“We fully intend on going,” says Natasegara of herself and von Einsiedel. “But we’ll be talking to as many people as we can to highlight the situation as well as the myriad ripple effects of subject matter that has come around this film.”

Last week, Iranian helmer Asghar Farhadi, whose pic The Salesman is nominated in the Best Foreign Langauge category, made a stand by confirming that he wouldn’t attend the Oscars as the proposed ban attempted to “humiliate” people from predominately Muslim countries.

Trump’s executive order set to prohibit entry into the U.S. from seven predominately Muslim countries, including Iran and Syria, creating chaos at airports and across the media. This weekend, the ban was temporarily blocked by federal judge James Robart in Seattle. Trump’s administration said it would comply with the judge’s decision but would use every legal means possible to try and reinstate the order.

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