‘Jirga’: Film Review | Sydney 2018


A soldier trying to make amends returns to Afghanistan on this function from Australian director Benjamin Gilmour.

The one Australian movie in official competitors on the Sydney Film Competition, Jirga tackles a topic very a lot within the native information: Australian navy involvement in civilian deaths. Shot on a client digicam within the mountains of Jalalabad by writer-director Benjamin Gilmour, the movie seems like a low-budget handheld documentary. And if it had been factual, this story of an Australian soldier who returns to Afghanistan looking for to make reparations may need exerted a sure fascination. However as a fictional function, it feels slightly apparent and even patronizing: a redemption story by an Australian filmmaker that lets its Australian protagonist off the hook in a way too neat to be dramatically fascinating.

Gilmour opens with night-vision footage of a real-life navy strike. The sequence ends with a shot of a soldier, Mike (Sam Smith), eradicating his goggles to stare in horror at what he is accomplished. Three years later, Mike returns to Kabul with wads of money strapped to his physique and a mission to apologize to the household of the person he killed.

Enlisting the assistance of a taxi driver (Sher Alam Miskeen Ustad), he travels to Bamiyan, the place the 2 pal round on a big pink pedal boat and sing songs over the campfire. Mike convinces the frightened cabbie to drive him to Kandahar, however the bromance ends abruptly after they’re stopped by Taliban fighters at a checkpoint. Mike bolts from the automobile and flees. What occurs to the motive force subsequent is pointedly not within the movie’s purview.

Captured by the Taliban and brought to one in every of their cave hideouts, Mike witnesses the execution of two hostages, however is allowed to stay when he informs his captors of his plan. One in every of them, the chief’s right-hand (Amir Shah Talash), brings him meals, and Gilmour is cautious to color a human portrait of Taliban fighters. One of many director’s goals, per the manufacturing notes, was to counter “the Islamic terrorist stereotype” as perpetuated by “American propaganda.” 

The Taliban ultimately take Mike to the village he raided three years earlier than, advising him to depart the money behind earlier than he enters. Mike is taken to the house of his sufferer’s widow, the place he apologizes tearfully earlier than being summoned in entrance of the jirga, a court docket made up of village elders. His destiny is to be determined by the son of the person he shot, a boy no older than ten. Smith summons a real sense of regret in addition to heart-thumping concern in these scenes, which finish precisely the best way you suppose they may. However for essentially the most half he has little to do aside from look morose.

Scenes are in Pashto with subtitles and in damaged English, with Mike’s conversations halting at greatest. Gilmour has described the movie as a fable, which maybe explains why the character registers extra like a vessel for an ethical lesson than flesh and blood, with the viewers locked out of any sense of his inside life.

Skirting the road between documentary and fiction in a way harking back to the Jalalabad-based Aussie filmmaker George Gittoes (thanked within the credit), the filmmaking might most charitably be described as artless, with a medley of shaky thousand-pixel close-ups offering a way of element that does not fairly prolong to the script.

Manufacturing firm: Felix Media

Solid: Sam Smith, Sher Alam Miskeen Ustad, Amir Shah Talash, Baheer Safi, Arzo Weda, Inam Khan

Author-director: Benjamin Gilmour

Producers: John Maynard, Amir Shah Talash, Gull Hussain Baizada

Govt Producers: Bridget Ikin, David Gross

Cinematographer: Benjamin Gilmour

Editor: Nikki Stevens

Sound designer: Liam Egan

Music: AJ True

Venue: Sydney Film Competition

78 minutes.




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