Arts & Culture

Arab Filmmakers Denied Entry to U.S.

Carson Hughes, A&E Editor

The 13th annual Arab Film Festival, organized by Mizna, a Twin Cities Arab-American arts non-profit, will have some notable absences. Syrian director Gaya Jiji and Palestinian activist Naila Ayesh, the subject of the documentary “Naila and the Uprising,” have been denied entry to the United States. According to organizers, this is the first time in the history of the Arab Film Festival that a filmmaker or guest of the festival was denied entry. In addition, Egyptian actor Yasmin Raeis had her visa delayed and will be unable to attend the festival.

Lana Barkawi, the executive and artistic director of Mizna, blamed these visa denials on the travel ban implemented by the Trump administration, which restricts travel from Chad, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Yemen. Barkawi told the “Pioneer Press,” “It seems the administration’s Muslim ban and general hostility to the world is having its desired effect. We’ve had visiting filmmakers from all over the Middle East and North Africa in the past and we’ve never had this problem before.” Though Egypt is not subject to the travel ban, Barkawi believes authorities intentionally delayed Raeis’s visa by scheduling her interview after the film festival. She argues that the authorities had Raeis’s information well in advance and could have scheduled the interview prior to the festival.

Despite these issues, the Arab Film Festival remains scheduled Thursday through Sunday at the St. Anthony Main Theater. The festival premieres with a 7 p.m. showing of the award-winning Lebanese drama film “Capernaum,” followed by a performance from Dua and music by DJ Yasmeenah. According to festival director Michelle Baroody, the majority of films shown at this year’s festival are from women filmmakers. This year’s lineup also features many films from Palestinian filmmakers which address the 70th anniversary of the 1948 Palestinian exodus as well as Palestinian reactions to Syrian refugee crisis.

This article first appeared in the Friday, September 28 edition of The Echo.