Three years after an Australian army helicopter raid on a small village led to the killing of an unarmed man, former Australian soldier Mike (Sam Smith) returns to Afghanistan to find the victim’s family. Doggedly, he sets off on a perilous journey over a terrain where both the Taliban and ISIS are active. Mike is determined to make amends and so puts his life in the hands of the Jirga – the village justice system. The risky trek has remarkable parallels with the making of the film. With an earlier version of the screenplay in hand, director Benjamin Gilmour and actor Sam Smith headed to Pakistan to shoot a film on the border with Afghanistan. When the script was deemed too politically sensitive, the promised funding disappeared and along with it the possibility to make the film. Gilmour says: “Returning to Australia to make alternative plans would’ve been the sensible conclusion to our adventure. Instead, we went with Plan B and decided to shoot the whole film ourselves in Afghanistan.” With a camera bought at a Pakistani shopping mall, Gilmour shot the hastily rewritten film himself, while frequently in danger of kidnapping or worse. The result is a sensitive and compassionate tale on the impact of war and the cost of redemption.
Jirga is my response to the proliferation of war-porn in the media, and the generalised depiction of Afghans as extremists. I wanted to counter the Islamic terrorist stereotype of contemporary American war propaganda by giving a human face to combatants and civilians alike, demonstrating the true cost of war on all sides. – Benjamin Gilmour
Benjamin Gilmour is a filmmaker, author and paramedic, based in northern NSW. His films include the feature Son of a Lion (SFF 2008) and documentary Paramedico (SFF 2012). As a published author, Gilmour’s titles include Warrior Poets: Guns, Movie-making and the Wild West of Pakistan, Paramedico – Around the World by Ambulance and most recently the children’s book The Travel Bug.
Festival guests: Benjamin Gilmour, John Maynard and Sam Smith
Talk: After the Saturday 9 June screening of Jirga, is an Extended Q&A with Benjamin Gilmour, Sam Smith and John Maynard in the Festival Hub, starting at 2pm
Flexipasses are not valid for Back by Popular Demand sessions Monday 18 June to Wednesday 20 June.
Travelling Film Festival Newcastle, June 22 - 24: Tickets also available for Jirga at TFF Newcastle.