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Documenting Lives in Conflict Zones: A Conversation with James Longley

With James Longley. Moderated by Negar Mottahedeh.
February 19th, 2015
1:00 PM


Listen to Longley on The State of Things:

On February 19, 2015, documentary filmmaker James Longley and Duke professor Negar Mottahedeh discussed Longley’s body of work examining the lives of people in conflict zones, mostly in the Middle East and South Asia. Longley’s 2006 film, Iraq in Fragments, offers an intimate view of the early years of the Iraq War through three different points of view. The film won numerous honors, including three jury awards at Sundance, the grand jury award at Full Frame Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award. His short, Sari’s Mother (2007), was also nominated for an Academy Award. Longley was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2009 and a USA Ford Fellow in 2011.

About Longley’s visit to Duke:

Award-winning documentary filmmaker James Longley was at Duke University February 11- 20, 2015 as an artist in residence with the Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts program. His visit coincided with his first still photography exhibition, Kabul, Afghanistan at the Power Plant Gallery at American Tobacco in downtown Durham.

James Longley


James Longley is a filmmaker whose intimate portraits of people in politically volatile countries in the Middle East are deepening our understanding of the historical and cultural dimensions of the region’s conflicts. For his low-budget, self-financed films, Longley lives among ordinary families, gaining access to people in places rarely chronicled on film by Westerners. He captures his subjects in very personal settings and situations, revealing both the inhumanity of everyday life under conditions of war, political chaos, and economic devastation and the parallel universe of courage, resilience, and resistance. While describing a place, a people, and a circumstance, Longley’s early film in Gaza and his later films in Iraq offer unflinching portrayals of the costs and casualties of civil and international conflicts. Through his films and others in development, Longley is illuminating the beauty of foreign lands and providing Western audiences with a critical new perspective on communities living under extremely challenging conditions. Longley is currently at work on new projects about Iran, India, and other countries in the region.

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Negar Mottahedeh

Duke University

Negar Mottahedeh is Associate Professor in the Program in Literature and in the Women’s Studies Program at Duke University, a cultural critic, and film theorist specializing in interdisciplinary and feminist contributions to the fields of Middle Eastern Studies and Film Studies. She is the author of Displaced Allegories: Post-Revolutionary Iranian Cinema (Duke University Press, 2008) and Representing the Unpresentable: Historical Images of National Reform from the Qajars to the Islamic Republic of Iran (Syracuse University Press, 2007) Her book #iranelection: Hashtag Solidarity and the Transformation of Online Life was published by Stanford University Press in 2015. on the transformation of online life in response to an unwavering global solidarity around a hashtag. She tweets as @negaratduke.