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Filmmaker James Longley of Friday Harbor awarded $500K fellowship by MacArthur Foundation

Filmmaker James Longley of Friday Harbor ("Iraq in Fragments") has been awarded a $500,000 fellowship by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Longley's "Iraq in Fragments" is a highly acclaimed documentary that received 10 awards and four award nominations, among them a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Documentary. It won awards for cinematography, directing and film editing at the Sundance Film Festival.

Longley is the son of Roger and Alison Longley of Friday Harbor. His sister, Margaret, is also a filmmaker who worked as a camera operator on "Iraq in Fragments." She spent summer 2008 creating a film on the disenfranchisement of the homeless.

The trailer for "Iraq in Fragments" can be viewed here.

Longley, 37, told seattlepi.com that the grant will help him finance his films. He is currently at work on new projects about India, Iran and other countries in the region.

"Iraq in Fragments" is a documentary about modern-day Iraq as told by Iraqis living in a time of war, occupation and ethnic tension. The MacArthur Foundation said this about the documentary:

"(The film's) 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.

"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. For his highly acclaimed film 'Iraq in Fragments' (2006), he spent two years in the country without the protection of private security or the assistance of a film crew.

"In a trilogy of compelling and cinematically complex stories, he presents life in war-ravaged Iraq through the eyes of an abandoned young boy on the streets of Baghdad, the collective energy and obsession of Moqtada al-Sadr's followers, and the agrarian solemnity of Kurdish family farmers."

Longley also directed "Sari's Mother" (2006) and "Gaza Strip" (2002).

"Sari's Mother" is a short film about a family struggling to navigate the labyrinthine health care system in Iraq, and illustrates the human casualties of a broken governmental bureaucracy and a failed medical infrastructure.

"Through these 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," the foundation wrote.

Longley attended Friday Harbor schools, received a B.A. from Wesleyan University in 1994, and 2002 founded Daylight Factory, a production company committed to creating documentary films about international subjects.

24 fellows named for 2009
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation named 24 MacArthur Fellows for 2009. The Fellows work across a broad spectrum of endeavors. They include an infectious disease physician, an ornithologist, a painter, a photojournalist, a bridge engineer, a climate scientist, an economist, a papermaker, a mental health lawyer, and a poet.

All were selected for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future.

This past week, the recipients learned by a phone call out of the blue from the Foundation that they will each receive $500,000 in "no strings attached" support over the next five years. MacArthur Fellowships come without stipulations and reporting requirements and offer Fellows unprecedented freedom and opportunity to reflect, create and explore.

"For nearly three decades, the MacArthur Fellows Program has highlighted the importance of creativity and risk-taking in addressing pressing needs and challenges around the globe," MacArthur President Robert Gallucci said in a press release. "Through these Fellowships, we celebrate and support exceptional men and women of all ages and in all fields who dream, explore, take risks, invent, and build in new and unexpected ways in the interest of shaping a better future for us all."

In addition to the fellowships, the foundation is funding projects to promote peace and security in Asia, training future leaders in sustainable development, and strengthening policy through research.

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