Best known for his film Iraq in Fragments, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2006, James Longley has made himself a sort of one-man cottage industry of Middle Eastern documentary. Last week, his first feature, 2002's Gaza Strip, screened at Duke, and though it's rougher than Fragments in the execution, it may be more affecting, with grittier visuals and more face time for his subjects.
Longley had intended to stay in Gaza for two weeks, but violence began to break out with the election of Ariel Sharon as Israeli prime minister, so he ditched his return ticket and stayed on for three months. At the time, Israeli settlements took up nearly a third of the Strip, and Longley's camera captured daily life for Palestinians as a nightmare of blockades, bulldozed houses and orchards, and attacks by gunfire and gas.
It could be said that trouble seems to follow him, if he weren't in the business of chasing it. After Fragments, Longley spent two years in Iran working on his next project, only to be arrested during the election riots last summer. That project is on hold. For today's conversation at the Nasher, he'll fly in from Pakistan, where he's currently shooting his next feature.
Longley won a MacArthur Fellowship last year. The half million-dollar award will surely come in handy to help him continue his work, which needs no validation. Longley's camera is our eyes and ears in parts of the world that are otherwise glimpsed only in five-second clips of violence and misery on the evening news.
The talk, moderated by Barbaralee Diamondstein-Spielvogel, starts at 6:30 p.m. and will be followed by a reception. —Marc Maximov