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Statement In Support of Talal Derki

By Dan Cogan

To my friends and compatriots in the documentary community -

This is Talal Derki. Over the past few years, I have become very close to this extraordinary Syrian filmmaker. He has won not one but two Grand Jury Prizes for Best Documentary at Sundance -- the first was for the unforgettable RETURN TO HOMS and the most recent -- just last year -- for the astonishing OF FATHERS AND SONS. He also happens to be a person of extraordinary depth, sensitivity, and soul. We worked on OF FATHERS AND SONS together and I hope it is just the first of many films I will have the great pleasure of making with him.

Talal holds a Syrian passport and is currently living in exile in Berlin. He was meant to be in the United States right now, but instead he is stuck in Germany as the visa he needs to enter the United States, since he is still a Syrian citizen, has not been granted to him. He should be in New York this very night, where he is supposed to be a presenter at the Cinema Eye Honors, and where he is also a nominee, but he will not be there because he is still waiting to receive a visa that he was told as recently as last month should not be a problem.

Why is his visa not being granted? We don't know. Could it possibly be that the current American administration is slow-boating any visas for citizens of the largely Muslim country of Syria? Do they understand that this is a filmmaker -- a secular Syrian of Kurdish descent -- who risked his life to go undercover and spend two years with the family of a terrorist to explore the lives of his children, and the impact of his murderous teachings on their young lives? This is an incredibly brave man who risked everything to tell us stories of the other side -- an artist whom we should be welcoming and celebrating -- who instead is stuck unable to tell the world about his film because of our government's irrational fear and loathing.

Talal sought to show us, in a non-judgmental and deeply human way, what the lives of those we think of as our enemies are really like. We are all much worse off if we remain ignorant of their realities. If you have relationships or contacts with those who could be helpful in securing the necessary visa, please contact me. We want Talal here with us.

And as a tribute to Talal, I hope you will watch his films. They are astonishing works of cinema.

Yours truly,
Dan Cogan