The Trump administration’s notorious ban on travel to the US from countries such as Iran and Libya has affected thousands of people, including numerous artists. Syrian director Feras Fayyad nearly missed the Academy Awards ceremony in 2018, where his film Last Men in Aleppo was nominated for Best Documentary Feature, due to the ban. (At the time it was reported that he was unable to attend, but a more recent article says he was in fact cleared to travel at the last minute.) This year, Fayyad is again nominated for that award, this time for his documentary The Cave, but yet again visa troubles may prevent him from being able to attend the event.
Fayyad was denied a visa at the beginning of this year, right as awards season was kicking off. Since then, he has been unable to attend events such as the International Documentary Association Awards (where he won Best Writing), the Cinema Eye Honors, and the Television Critics Association winter press tour. This move prompted indignant responses from those bodies, as well as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, National Geographic (which distributed The Cave), and various cultural institutions in Denmark (where Fayyad has lived since fleeing Syria). In a statement for the press, The Cave producer Sigrid Dyekjær claimed authorities had unjustly and roughly detained Fayyad at the US Embassy in Copenhagen after he returned there from Turkey, where he had traveled to be closer to his family after learning his aunt’s house had been bombed back in Syria. Fayyad had previously been granted a three-month visa in September 2019, which he used to attend various screenings of his film during its initial theatrical release.
Fayyad is not the only Oscar-nominated filmmaker to be affected by the travel ban. In 2017, acclaimed Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, who had previously won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2013 for A Separation, faced possible barring from the US. He opted to boycott the ceremony rather than contend with the immigration system. He ultimately again won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, for The Salesman. Iranian-Americans Anousheh Ansari and Firouz Naderi accepted the award on his behalf. It remains to be seen whether Fayyad will be able to attend the awards.
The 92nd Academy Awards ceremony will take place on February 9, broadcast on ABC.