The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday February 6th

Documentary on life in Iraq to be shown at UNC

Screening organized by Full Frame

Spending eight months in Baghdad during one of the most volatile periods of the war in Iraq was a harrowing experience for documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras. But she said it was nothing compared to what the Iraqi people have to go through every day. Poitras, director of the critically acclaimed documentary "My Country My Country", will be presenting her film and speaking about her experiences at 7 p.m. today in the Hanes Art Center Auditorium. A Best Documentary nominee at the 2007 Academy Awards, the film tells the story of the first Iraqi national elections through the eyes of a Sunni doctor running for office, Dr. Riyadh. "I met him at Abu Ghraib," Poitras said. "He was conducting an inspection of the prison for the Baghdad City Council." Poitras said she was intrigued by his passion while he was advocating on behalf of detained Iraqis. The screening is being hosted by Durham's Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and the Carolina Union Activities Board. The Full Frame Institute sends festival winners to universities around the state, and Poitras' film won the Full Frame Inspiration award in 2006. The festival will kick off Thursday. "It's not a story of the United States, not the story of our military, what we should be doing," said Andrew Carlberg, chairman for both CUAB's film and public figures committees. "It's simply a look at the people and how they're responding to the activity that's going on there." Carlberg purposely avoided seeing the film earlier so that he could watch it with the audience and Poitras tonight. "I think it's valuable to see it in that light," he said. Poitras, who was in Iraq from June 2004 to February 2005, said she saw the American democratic process in a new light after witnessing the national elections in Iraq. "People risked their lives to go and vote," she said, pointing out that turnout was higher than in recent American elections. "I wonder sometimes how many Americans might vote if they thought that they might die. "There's a lot taken for granted here." As an American living with an Iraqi family, Poitras knew her life often was in danger, as well. "What do you think? I was in Baghdad, working alone without security," she said of her conditions. "There were a whole lot of people I knew in more danger, though." Through her experience, she was able to tell a story not often told about the war. "It's a really intimate portrait - it transcends a lot of news coverage," she said. "It fills in a lot of peoples' gaps of knowledge." Instrumental in bringing Poitras and her film to campus was professor Gorham Kindem, the school's liaison to the Full Frame Institute. "It's very important, I think, for students to obtain access to this kind of information that you don't see in the mainstream media," he said. "It's an extremely important film to view if you want to get a better understanding of Iraq today." Kindem added that the film shows many sides of the conflict. "It's very revealing in terms of the different avenues of resistance to American occupation." Poitras said her goal was to shed some light on the war and its issues for Americans. "The debate about the war is a debate about America. We lose sight of Iraq and what's going on there," she said. "Hopefully, it's a film that challenges both sides of the political spectrum." Contact the Arts Editor at


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