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‘POV’ Joins the Academy in Solidarity with Visa-Denied ‘Last Men in Aleppo’ Producer

Syrian national Kareem Abeed is being prevented from attending the March 4 Oscar ceremony, where his film will vie for Best Documentary Feature.

Last Men in Aleppo

“Last Men in Aleppo”

Courtesy of Grasshopper Film

UPDATED (February 28): “Last Men in Aleppo” director Feras Fayyad revealed on Twitter that his producer, Kareem Abeed, did receive a visa in time to attend the 90th annual Oscars.

The PBS documentary series “POV” is the latest organization to publicly support the team behind Oscar-nominated “Last Men in Aleppo,” which recently learned that producer Kareem Abeed will not receive a visa to travel from Syria to the U.S. for next weekend’s Academy Awards.

“We stand with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the International Documentary Association, both of which have voiced their support for Abeed, [director Feras] Fayyad and the subjects of ‘Last Men in Aleppo,‘” said POV staffers in a statement. “In making their film, Fayyad and Abeed sought to document the personal toll of war. We support their every effort to tell this story.”

Before receiving its historic Best Documentary Feature Oscar nod, “Last Men in Aleppo” won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. “POV,” a three-decade-old institution, broadcasted the film in July.

The Academy released its own statement on February 20: “For 90 years, the Oscars have celebrated achievement in the art of filmmaking, which seeks to transcend borders and speak to audiences around the world, regardless of national, ethnic, or religious differences. As supporters of filmmakers — and the human rights of all people — around the globe, we stand in solidarity with Fayyad as well as the film’s producer Kareem Abeed.”

Marketers of “Last Men in Aleppo” began attempting to expedite a visa for Abeed as soon as nominations were announced on January 23. Tom Oyer, the Academy’s membership and awards manager, even wrote a letter on Abeed’s behalf. Feras told IndieWire that while Abeed completed all required paperwork, he was still denied entry, something Feras partly attributes to a viral Russian campaign to portrays his film’s subject — a volunteer rescue contingent called the White Helmet — as terrorists. Since October 2015, Russia has assisting the Syrian government in carrying out airstrikes against its own citizens.

In December, the stars and filmmakers of four documentaries on the conflict were honored with the International Documentary Association’s Courage Under Fire Award.

Even if Abeed’s request had been granted, an executive order signed by President Trump last year deters new visa applications from Syria and other refugee nations.

The Oscars will take place at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on Sunday, March 4.

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