UPDATED: “The Cave” director Feras Fayyad has finally made it into the United States, weeks after he was denied entry into the country. According to National Geographic Documentary Films, which is behind the Oscar-nominated “The Cave,” “we can report that Feras arrived safely this evening in Los Angeles.”
Fayyad’s arrival comes after he missed a Television Critics Assn. press tour panel on Jan. 17 promoting “The Cave.” At the time, Nat Geo told reporters that Fayyad had been detained by immigration police in Copenhagen, and eventually released to producer Sigrid Dyekjar.
Fayyad had earlier been denied a visa into the United States, and was not able to attend the International Documentary Association’s Documentary Awards in Los Angeles to accept his prize for best writing for “The Cave.” Since then, his aunt’s house was bombed in Syria, and he had traveled back and forth between Turkey, to be close to his family, and Denmark, where the Syrian filmmaker lives in exile.
The news of Fayyad’s inability to enter the United States came two days after the New York-based National Academy of TV Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles-based Television Academy sent a letter to the State Department urging his safe travel to the U.S. In a response to the Academies’ letter, Ian Brownlee, the Bureau’s principal deputy assistant secretary, said it could report that “the appropriate U.S. Embassy has been in touch with Mr. Fayyad’s attorneys to obtain the remaining documents needed in order to complete the processing of his application.”
“The Cave” comes from Fayyad and his primary cinematographers Muhammed Khair Al Shami, Ammar Sulaiman and Mohammed Eyad, who followed Dr. Amani Ballor, a pediatrician and the manager of an underground hospital in war-torn Al Ghouta, as she tended to patients and tried to maintain morale as bombs dropped all around her and her team. Between 2012 and 2018, they shot roughly 1,000 hours of material.
Here’s the full statement from National Geographic Documentary Films about Fayyad’s arrival in the U.S.:
The outpouring of support from the documentary and entertainment community to help us in our efforts to have The Cave’s director Feras Fayyad return to the US has been overwhelming. After weeks of turmoil and struggle and obstacles no one should have to endure, we can report that Feras arrived safely this evening in Los Angeles. Feras is a visionary filmmaker and activist who has dedicated his life to sharing Syrian stories, often at great risk to himself and the tireless and dedicated teams that work with him.
His film, “The Cave,” implores us to bear witness to the ongoing atrocities of the Syrian crisis and to stand with those, like Dr. Amani, who refuse to be silenced. Through the power of film, as only he can, he has brought us into Dr. Amani’s world, and we are all a little bit better, more aware, and more compassionate, because of it. She is a true hero; a true humanitarian; the first woman to be a director of a hospital in Syria; and a true inspiration. Our hope and focus now is to try and arrange for Dr. Amani to also attend the Oscars and spend some time in the U.S. supporting her fund. We are grateful to the film community who feels as we do that now, more than ever, it’s crucial that we support and give a platform to storytellers and artists such as Feras who are attempting to enlighten, inform and inspire the world through their work.
On Tuesday, Fayyad posted his thanks on Twitter: