Syrian ‘White Helmets’ makers get visas for Oscar travel

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Two Syrian rescue workers said on Friday they plan to travel to next week’s Oscar ceremony, where their documentary “White Helmets” is nominated for an award, after weeks of uncertainty caused by U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban, reports Reuters.

Raed Saleh, the leader of the White Helmets, and cinematographer Khaled Khatib have both obtained visas to travel to the United States for the Feb. 26 Academy Award ceremony in Los Angeles, producer Joanna Natasegara said.

“They both have valid visas. We remain cautious about the physical part of entering the country. Things had been very unclear until this point, but we are now being told they are welcome to enter,” Natasegara said.

“The White Helmets are among the most inspiring humanitarians we have ever known, and it is the greatest honor to share a global platform where their incredible work can be recognized…. In these uncertain times, their story is one of the most moving of our generation,” she added in a joint statement with director Orlando von Einsiedel.

“The White Helmets,” nominated in the Oscars short subject documentary category, gives a glimpse of the daily lives of the civilian Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, whose members volunteer as rescue workers in the war-ravaged country.

“It is important that people understand that Syria has people who want the same things they want: peace, jobs, family, and to live without the fear of bombs. This is what I hope the film does,” Khatib said in a statement on Friday.

Last month it looked as if the Syrian filmmakers would be unable to get to the Oscars because of Trump’s executive order that barred entry to the United States for citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days.

U.S appeals court judges last week blocked Trump’s travel ban, but the Republican president has said he plans to issue a new order soon.

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi and actress Taraneh Alidoosti, who stars in his foreign-language nominated film “The Salesman,” have said they will boycott the Academy Awards to protest Trump’s travel restrictions.

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