Q&A Premier’s in the US with myself and actor Sam Smith coming up:
July 26, 2019
Village East Cinema – New York, NY
August 2, 2019
Laemmle’s Music Hall – Beverly Hills, CA
more dates coming soon…
Honoured to receive the prestigious 2019 NSW Premier’s Literary Award (Betty Roland Prize) for Screenwriting last night.
Much gratitude goes to the Afghans who brought authenticity to the scenes of Jirga; to actor Sam Smith who helped me see the beauty in less dialogue; to producer John Maynard and editor Nikki Stevens because the story is so often improved in post production. Sometimes it’s the people around you who make you seem talented! Thanks most of all to my family for their constant support.
Here’s what the judges had to say.
Off the back of TIFF and the Palm Springs International Film Festival, we are pleased to inform you that Jirga is being released in cinemas across the USA this June, 2019. Jirga is also Australian submission to the Oscars Foreign Language Academy Awards and winner of the coveted CineFestOz Best Film award in 2018 and also won Best Independent Film at the AACTA Awards, Australia’s equivalent of the Oscars. Event Cinemas are releasing Jirga on January 31st at Sydney (George St; Macquarie; Mt Gravatt), Adelaide (Marion), Canberra (Manuka), Perth (Inaloo).
Jirga is currently screening around Australia after launching at Sydney and Melbourne Film Festivals and being the only Australian film in the SFF Official Competition. The film is also available for community screenings. You too can become a peace activist by arranging a screening of Jirga in your community. It’s easy! Please write to us and we’ll send you all the information or visit FanForce for details.
What a wonderful couple of weeks at the Sydney Film Festival where our feature Jirga had it’s World Premiere, the only Australian film in competition. All screenings at the grand State Theatre and Ritz were either sold out or close to it. Sitting through the film in that space among so many people was incredible. There is nothing quite like watching a film in a packed cinema. Many people said they could feel the collective emotion rising, the tension, the joy, the sadness. It was a shared experience and many people were moved to tears. The first comment in the Q&A that followed was from a woman who said Jirga was the ‘most healing war film’ she’d ever seen. Then I had the pleasure of being outside as the audience left the theatre and soon lost count of the many people who came up with tears still in their eyes to thank us for bringing such a film into the world, a film about compassion and forgiveness. That opening night was one I will never forget and it proved to us that people are ready for this film. People are over the violence in the world and are desperate to connect with their fellow human beings. People are yearning for art that contributes to peace.
Soon after the premiere, the first review written about Jirga was by a notoriously tough critic at The Guardian. Here is his review.
The next screenings of Jirga will be at the New Zealand Film Festival at the end of this month, in Aukland, Wellington and other cities. I will be attending for the Aukland and Wellington sessions. See details here.
A general cinema release in Australia is planned for the end of September, 2018.
We are excited to announce that our feature drama film Jirga will have its World Premiere at the 2018 Sydney Film Festival, screening at the State Theatre in competition, June 8th/9th. It is the greatest honour to have been selected in this section and, above all, to have a great first audience for our film. This what the official festival program has to say:
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.
BOOK TICKETS to Jirga HERE
BOOK a seat at the SPECIAL Q&A HERE
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE
In anticipation of the release of my next feature film ‘Jirga’ this year, I have put together a book of behind-the-scenes stories and photography from our shoot in Afghanistan. It tells the tale of how Aussie actor Sam Smith and myself teamed up with a motley crew of Afghans and made this film on a shoestring budget in a place many people refer to as a ‘war zone’. You can also follow news of the ‘Jirga’ film release here.
As a teaser for what is to come, here is an extract from the introduction of the book ‘Jirga – Guerrilla Filmmaking in Afghanistan’. To get you all excited for the film, I’ll be releasing several extracts from the book on this website prior to the it’s publication in June.
My journeys as a writer and filmmaker have taken me to many fascinating corners of this earth, but none more compelling than Afghanistan. For all the beauty of it’s nature and people, much destruction and suffering has been afflicted on this nation by war. On the streets of Kabul I’ve shared tea with men my age who’ve never seen their country at peace. Previously I’ve spent considerable time among Afghan refugees over the border in Pakistan. I’ve dined with hardened militants on R&R from the fight against coalition forces in Afghanistan, been offered American military medals looted from army convoys in the Khyber, and narrowly escaped suicide bombings. Meanwhile, as a paramedic and aid worker I’ve treated the casualties of this conflict too, both war-wounded in frontier hospitals and returned soldiers in my home town suffering physical and mental injuries.
My exposure to this war, or at least the impact of it on the humans involved, has provided me an insight into a conflict that never needed to last so long and perhaps never needed to have happened in the first place. I believe more than ever that war is a profoundly immoral undertaking and, in most cases, completely unnecessary, enormously damaging to humanity and the environment. Now, in Afghanistan, fighting drags on, driven by the interests of war profiteers and disaster capitalists, along with the power-plays of neighbouring nations. Civilians trying to survive in their ravaged land are not the only ones who believe the war is unjust. Many disillusioned soldiers have come to share that view.
Last year I flew to Afghanistan with actor Sam Smith to make the feature drama film ‘Jirga’, the fictional story of one such disillusioned soldier, Mike Wheeler. Mike quit the Australian Army soon after returning from his second deployment, tormented by an incident that took place during a joint US/Australian raid on a village in Kandahar. In the heat of battle Mike accidentally shot dead an unarmed man who appeared in a doorway. Our film tells the tale of Mike’s return to Afghanistan as a tourist hoping to track down the family of the civilian, beg forgiveness from them and offer compensation. His journey is a moral one and judging by the disregard he has for his own welfare it appears he will stop at nothing to complete his mission. Along the way he meets several generous Afghans, including a group of surly Taliban, willing to help him reach his noble goal. As he gets closer to the village where the raid took place Mike discovers the hard way that forgiveness cannot be bought.
My hope is that our film will give a voice to Afghans and offer greater insight into a conflict many struggle to make sense of. Mike’s courageous journey into his nightmare, aided by ordinary Afghans, helps us to better understand and empathise with both civilians and combatants. The film also aims to inform our perspectives of Muslims in an age where politicians and mainstream media persist on blaming terrorist acts on Islam itself. Jirga demonstrate the mercy among those who adhere to this faith, a mercy commonly ignored by extremists and Islamophobes alike.
CAMERAS & KALASHNIKOVS (Limited Edition Hardcover, full of colour pictures)
OUT ON 1/6/2018) | PRE-ORDER from our WEBSHOP