Benjamin Gilmour, Sam Smith and Face2Face host David Peck talk about their delightful and challenging new film Jirga, the absurdity of war, forgiveness, ethical codes, moral courage and suffering in silence.
After finding the family of a civilian he accidentally killed during the war, a former Australian soldier returns to Afghanistan to face his demons, in Benjamin Gilmour’s affecting drama.
Writer-director Benjamin Gilmour and Australian actor Sam Smith have created one of the most enthralling films of the year with Jirga, shot in the starkly beautiful but dangerous landscapes straddling Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Mike, an Australian ex-soldier, returns to Afghanistan in search of a civilian family that he knows he wronged three years earlier.
His journey from the bustling streets of Kabul to the small village where he hopes to find the family is filled with delays, detours, danger, and, some unexpected respites of beauty and peace. Relentless in his quest for forgiveness, Mike ultimately puts his life in the hands of the village justice system — the Jirga — accepting that the decision of this tribal authority of elders will be binding and irrevocable.
A simple yet elegantly-told tale with remarkable emotional resonance, Jirga was as gripping to make as it is to watch: Political censorship resulted in lost funding, which led to Gilmour and Smith deciding to scrape the film together themselves with little money in a highly charged environment, casting real-life former Taliban members and filming in the mountains of Jalalabad.
While this story of a former soldier returning to the scene of his past battles is deeply felt, another engaging and important aspect of the film is its insight into the rich culture and traditions of Afghan Muslims. Ultimately, Jirga is a film that rejects simplistic ideas about war, and embraces the human search for forgiveness, redemption, and mercy.
Benjamin Gilmour is a filmmaker, author and paramedic, based in Northern NSW. His key film credits include the feature Son of a Lion and documentary Paramedico in 2012. It was Gilmour’s paramedic work that led him to the film industry, originally working as an on-set nurse.
Gilmour lends his experience, as a front-line paramedic, to his work with NGO Trek Medics International, to assist in developing emergency medical systems for low to middle income communities in Africa and Central Asia.
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.
Sam Smith is an Australian actor who works in film, television and theatre. His most recent roles include the HBO drama series The Leftovers and Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale.
His past performances include lead roles in Ben Briand’s Hammer Bay, winner of both the MTV Optus 180 Project and the Creative Annual Best Long Form Project; and Some Static Started, which was nominated for an Australian Directors Guild award.
For more information about Benjamin’s work please head to his site here.
Image Copyright: Benjamin Gilmour Taylor. Used with permission.
For more information about David Peck’s podcasting, writing and public speaking please visit his site here.
With thanks to producer Josh Snethlage and Mixed Media Sound.