Netflix’s The White Helmets, a film about the Syrian rescue group of the same name, won best documentary short at Sunday’s Oscars ceremony over fellow nominees Extremis, 4.1 Miles, Joe’s Violin and Watani: My Homeland.
Producer Joanna Natasegara first thanked the Academy, family, and “most of all, thank you to the White Helmets.”
Director Orlando von Einsiedel then read a message from the head of the White Helmets: “We’re so grateful that this film has highlighted our work to the world. … To save one life is to save humanity.” The statement continued, urging people to “work on the side of life, to stop the bloodshed in Syria and around the world.”
Von Einsiedel then asked a favor of the crowd of A-listers: “If everyone could stand up and remind them that we all care.” And, of course, they did.
White Helmets leader Raed Saleh attended the event despite earlier concerns that he wouldn’t be able to as a result of President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, which barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States.
“We are eagerly looking forward to coming to the Oscars,” he said in a statement prior to the ceremony. “It will give us an important platform for the voices of Syrian children and women trapped under the rubble as a result of the airstrikes and artillery shelling, and for the voices of thousands of displaced Syrians who have been forced from their homes.”
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But while Saleh was able to attend, the film’s cinematographer, Khaled Khateeb, was barred from entering the U.S. on Friday. Prior to the ceremony, Khateeb said, “If I cannot enter the U.S., I will not give up: We know that we have many friends in the U.S., that there are people that share our humanitarian values. I look forward to meeting them all one day.”
Backstage after she accepted the award, producer Joanna Natasegara told reporters of Khateeb’s inability to attend: “It’s a really bittersweet evening, as much as it’s been ameliorated by the fact that we’ve won. We literally just spoke to him out in the corridor. He’s thrilled because like us, he just wants the world to know the White Helmets.”
The White Helmets are a group of volunteers that according to their website have saved more than 78,000 lives on all sides of the Syria conflict. They were nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize this past year.
The White Helmets is now streaming on Netflix.
The 89th Annual Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, are airing live from Los Angeles on ABC.
- With reporting by GABRIELLE OLYA