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The Axis Strikes Back

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As the alarms and war cries grow louder, Duke, UNC and the Center for Documentary Studies are presenting separate programs that demonstrate the complex realities of life in the Middle East.

Duke University's Screen Society just might have the distinction of being the first campus film club to be denounced by Rush Limbaugh and his idiot kin for having the temerity to offer a spring program with the in yo' face title of "Reel Evil: Films from the Axis of Evil."

The series kicks off Wednesday, Feb. 26 with Bahman Ghobadi's magnificent Time for Drunken Horses. Though the film is nominally Iranian, Ghobadi's film concerns an orphaned family of Kurds who live near the border with Iran (the stateless Kurds live in parts of Turkey, Iran and, under U.N. protection, Iraq). One of the siblings is severely ill, and the other children make incredible sacrifices in a quest to raise money for his medical treatment. One girl marries a wealthy man, and the oldest boy begins smuggling goods over the border to Iran, a frontier so cold and forbidding that the pack animals must be intoxicated in order to function. Time for Drunken Horses will begin at 8 p.m. in Griffith Theater on the Duke campus.

On Saturday, March 1, the Center for Documentary Studies in Durham will present Canadian journalist Sally Armstrong's Daughters of Afghanistan. This recently completed television special is a powerful rebuttal to those who argue for an Iraqi war on the grounds that we will improve conditions in Iraq. Using footage taken on two trips made after the U.S. demolition of Afghanistan and the Taliban, Armstrong documents the jubilance of Afghan women and the fervent hopes that rested with one figure, Dr. Sima Samar. Armstrong's style can be grating--she's a lefty Barbara Walters--but the story she tells deserves our outrage.

Dr. Samar, her film's main subject, would become the minister of women's affairs under the Karzai government, and she was fêted by President Bush during his "axis of evil" State of the Union address. But, only a few months later, Dr. Samar fell victim to a fundamentalist power play. Today, the greatest advocate for the rights and dignity of Afghan women is forced to continue her work independently, with a fatwa hanging over her head. Dr. Samar will be present at the screening to discuss the film.

Dr. Samar will also be in Chapel Hill on Wednesday, Feb. 26, to speak about the present situation in Afghanistan at the George Watts Hill Center on the UNC campus. The event begins at 4 p.m. and it's free of charge. But bring a checkbook anyway.

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