Thursday, February 2, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Films with Seattle ties win Sundance, Slamdance awards

Seattle Times movie critic

Two films with Pacific Northwest roots won awards over the weekend at the Sundance and Slamdance film festivals in Park City, Utah. James Longley's documentary "Iraq in Fragments," filmed in Iraq and edited at Seattle's 911 Media Arts Center, won three awards at Sundance. Longley was honored for best directing and best cinematography, and Billy McMillin, Fiona Otway and Longley for best editing (a new award this year), all in the documentary category.

The film examines the everyday lives of Iraqi citizens in a country torn by political and ethnic differences, including an 11-year-old auto mechanic, an elderly farmer and a leader of the Shiite religious/political movement headed by Muqtada al-Sadr. Longley, an Oregon native who grew up in the San Juan Islands, captured more than 300 hours of footage in Iraq, between February 2003 and April 2005.

"It was a great shock, a huge honor," said Longley Monday of his film's Sundance success. He'll be travelling with his film over the next few months, at several international film festivals, but is looking forward to the Seattle premiere. "Iraq in Fragments" will be the opening night film at the seventh annual Seattle Arab & Iranian Film Festival on March 31, screening at Cinerama. Festival director John Sinno is the producer of "Iraq in Fragments." Longley's previous documentary, "Gaza Strip," premiered at the festival in 2002.

At Slamdance, Seattle writer/director Lynn Shelton's feature "We Go Way Back" won two prizes, including the top one: the grand jury award for best narrative feature, for which Shelton will receive a camera rental package valued at $60,000. Cinematographer Ben Kasulke won the Kodak Vision Award for best cinematography. Shelton's film, about a young actress who confronts her teenage self, was produced by Seattle's nonprofit film studio The Film Company, based on Capitol Hill.

Slamdance, positioned as an alternative to Sundance, focuses on new independent filmmakers. Its 2005 opening night film, "Mad Hot Ballroom," later became one of the year's documentary hits.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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