Jirga

Australia 2018 | Feature Drama | 78 min | English, Pashto with English Subtitles

4/28/2019   |   4:45 - 6:30 pm

This feature will be preceded by short films - THE BUBBLE MAN and FADE

SYNOPSIS

A traditional Pashtun tribal authority of community elders. The decision of the Jirga is binding on all members of the tribe. An Australian ex-soldier returns to Afghanistan to find the family of a civilian he accidentally killed during the war. Seeking forgiveness, he puts his life in the hands of the village justice system – the Jirga.

TRAILER

BENJAMIN GILMOUR

DIRECTOR'S PROFILE

Benjamin Gilmour is a filmmaker, author and paramedic, based in Northern NSW. His key film credits include the feature Son of a Lion (2008) and documentary Paramedico (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 (Pier9), Paramedico – Around the World by Ambulance (Harper Collins) and most recently the children’s book The Travel Bug (Penguin Random House).

DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT

I’ve been eager to return to Afghanistan, to work with locals on another project, ever since my first feature film, Son Of A Lion. In my experience working and travelling through the northwest frontier of Pakistan and Afghanistan, I found the Pashtun people to be extremely hospitable, warm and funny. And, after decades of war, they have the most incredible and moving stories to tell. With Jirga I wanted to counter the Islamic terrorist stereotypes and modern military propaganda we face in the West, demonstrating the true human cost of conflict. Civilians trying to survive in their ravaged lands are not the only ones who believe that war is unjust. Many damaged and disillusioned soldiers have also come to share that view. The motives for Mike’s return were inspired by the lingering sense of responsibility experienced by army veterans, from conflicts in Vietnam, Iraq and Timor-Leste. In my research I came across the stories of a number of Australian SAS veterans who had returned to Afghanistan, as civilians, to help rebuild villages damaged in conflict. Jirga is also intended to give the audience a new perspective on the lives of ordinary Afghan Muslims. It’s a great shame most westerner’s understanding of Afghanistan is only as a war zone. Of course, there’s active warfare in some provinces, but the country also boasts stunning natural landscapes and a rich culture of music and poetry. These aspects are so often overlooked yet so close to the hearts of Afghans. I hope Jirga is seen as a film that doesn't attempt to neatly divide the good from the bad, but instead offers an insight into the character and motives of those we view as the enemy and the struggles of Afghans and the mercy found in their faith and traditions.

CREDITS

PRODUCER 

JOHN MAYNARD

John is well known as a producer with an eye for talent, producing the debut feature films of a number of directors, including Jane Campion, Vincent Ward, Rowan Woods, Robert Connolly, Richard Roxburgh and Kasimir Burgess.

In 2007 John received the AFI Award for Best Film for Romulus, My Father (co-produced with Robert Connolly) and in 1989 for The Navigator. John has had three films In Competition in Cannes (an unrivalled Australian record). With partner Bridget Ikin, he co-produced Jane Campion’s “An Angel At My Table”, winner of the ‘Silver Lion’ in Venice in 1990. “The Boys”, John’s first collaboration with producer Robert Connolly, debuted in Competition at Berlin in 1998. For many years, he was in partnership with Robert Connolly, in Arenafilm. He has been an active independent distributor in Australia and New Zealand for almost 40 years with his company Footprint Films having a reputation for creating innovative and cost effective marketing campaigns. In 2003 John was awarded an Honorary Master’s Degree at the Australian Film Television and Radio School for his “commitment, as a creative producer, to ground breaking independent cinema; for nurturing new Australian talent and reflecting diverse themes of social and cultural relevance”.

In 2005 the Australian Directors Guild awarded their highest honor to John, The Cecil Holmes Memorial Award for his support of directors and the ADG.

In 2011 John established Felix Media with Bridget Ikin produce original screen-based works by artists.

CAST

SAM SMITH

Former Australian Army soldier Mike Wheeler

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.

 

SHER ALAM MISKEEN USTAD

Afghan taxi driver

Sher Alam Miskeen Ustad was the former chief Palace Guard of former Afghan President Mohammed Daoud, who was assassinated in 1978 by the communist opposition. Before the coup he was part of a small theatre group in Kabul. When the Russian army invaded the following year, Sher Alam joined the Mujahideen resistance and became renown for having decimated several Russian tanks with a single RPG launcher from a mountaintop. He was the only survivor when Russian helicopters responded and killed more than 30 of his friends. The first film he ever saw was ‘Rambo 3’ which lionized the Afghan mujahedin, many of whom would later become the Taliban. When the Taliban took power in the early nineties Sher Alam fled to Pakistan with his family. He now works in a sweet shop, playing his rabab (traditional lute) at local weddings in the frontier city of Kohat. Sher Alam played the father of the lead character in Gilmour’s Son of a Lion

(2008).

 

AMIR SHAH TALASH

English-speaking Taleb

Amir Shah Talash is an Afghan actor and producer based in Jalalabad. He is known for the action and thriller films he self-funds by working nights, unloading bags of cement. Talash has become a house-hold name in Afghanistan, particularly in Pashtun areas. He is trained in Taikwando, which he uses to fight off dozens of gangsters at a time, whenever he plays the hero. Talash works with Australian director George Gittoes at The Yellow House, his artist’s collective in Jalalabad. On Jirga, Amir Shah Talash played Sher Khan’s (the Taliban leader) right-hand man, and was also the local producer for the film.

FILMOGRAPHY

Jirga (2018) – Writer / Director

Paramedico (2012) – Writer/ Director

Festivals:

Busan International Film Festival 2013

Sydney Film Festival 2013

AWARDS

Winner - Foxtel Best Documentary Award, Sydney Film Festival 2013

Son of a Lion (2008) – Writer/ Director

Festivals:

Busan International Film Festival 2007

Berlinale Forum 2008

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2008

San Francisco International Film Festival 2008

Sydney Film Festival 2008

Winner - Independent Spirit Award Inside Film Awards 2008

Nominated - Best Film Inside Film Awards 2008

Jury Prize - Tehran Film Festival Iran 2010

PRESENTATION CREDITS

SCREEN AUSTRALIA and FELIX MEDIA present

KEY CREDITS/ BILLING BLOCK

Writer & Director BENJAMIN GILMOUR

Producer JOHN MAYNARD

Producers in Afghanistan AMIR SHAH TALASH, GULL HUSSAIN BAIZADA,

BENJAMIN GILMOUR, SAM SMITH

Executive producers DAVID GROSS and BRIDGET IKIN

Camera BENJAMIN GILMOUR

Editor NIKKI STEVENS

Sound Designer LIAM EGAN

Composer AJ TRUE

Cast SAM SMITH, SHER ALAM MISKEEN USTAD, AMIR SHAH TALASH,

BAHEER SAFI, ARZO WEDA, INAM KHAN

© 2018 Felix Media Pty Ltd and Screen Australia

ISAN 0000-0004-8A10-0000-8-0000-0000-D

 

AWARDS

 

Winner - Independent Spirit Award Inside Film Awards 2008

Nominated - Best Film Inside Film Awards 2008

Jury Prize - Tehran Film Festival Iran 2010

PICTURE

NIKKI STEVENS

Editor

Editor Nikki Stevens has a background in documentary and television, her recent credits include; Black Divaz (2018); Howard on Menzies: Building Modern Australia; Pauline Hanson: Please Explain!; and Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta. Jirga is Nikki's first feature drama.

Shot in 4k MP4 25fps the rushes were exciting but a challenge to work with. There was a story to refine and a lot of technical work to check the picture and deal with rough sound. Initial

investigations and tests at post-production house Definition Films demonstrated the effectiveness of stabilization, sharpening and grading to create an image suitable for a cinema screen. Archive footage was extensively used; SlateFX designed and executed the pick-up shots; and Jamie Hediger was the colorist.

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