The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and the Television Academy have jointly called on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to grant The Cave director Feras Fayyad entry into America after the Syrian filmmaker’s application was rejected in December.
Fayyad (pictured) tweeted Dec. 5 that “Trump travel ban issues” prevented his return to the U.S. to attend the International Documentary Association awards. “Hope to be back in U.S. soon,” he added. “Trump policy blocking me and Dr. Amani from sharing our stories.”
The director, whose 2018 film Last Men Aleppo received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Current Affairs Documentary, returns to wartorn Syria in The Cave to follow a team of female doctors, led by Amani Ballour, who treat causalities in a underground hospital.
The Cave, which has picked up awards at festivals such as Camden International Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, is one of the five documentaries nominated for the 92nd Academy Awards.
In a letter to Pompeo, the academies write: “The rejection of Mr. Fayyad’s application echoes the experience reported by other documentarians who have been denied entry to the United States while seeking to attend Emmy Award ceremonies at which their work has been nominated.”
“It appears that these visas may have been denied solely based on applicant nationality. But it is precisely their nationalities that make programs such as those produced by Mr. Fayyad so compelling. They employ on-the-ground access and knowledge to tell important stories of the highest relevance to the American public’s understanding of the Middle East and of U.S. policy in the region.”
The letter, signed by NATAS chairman Terry O’Rielly, Television Academy chairman and CEO Frank Scherma, NATAS president and CEO Adam Sharp, and Television Academy president and COO Maury McIntyre, states that the Emmy Awards “mission is suppressed when creators are denied the opportunity of full recognition of their work and interaction with their respectful peers.”
“We urge the State Department to acknowledge the importance of these productions to informing the American television audience and building global awareness, and to waive restrictions that prevent their rightful recognition. The impact of the work and the well deserved respect of our community handily outweigh blanket policy positions that err in overlooking such individual merit.”