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Home News "Jirga", a story of redemption in the Afghan desert

"Jirga", a story of redemption in the Afghan desert

Benjamin Gilmour's film depicts the return to Afghanistan of an Australian soldier who came to apologize to the relatives of a father he killed by mistake. Story of a grueling shoot.

By Isabelle Dellerba Posted yesterday at 08:15

Time to Reading 3 min.

Actor Sam Smith (left) and director Benjamin Gilmour shot "Jirga" with local amateur actors in one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
Actor Sam Smith (left) and director Benjamin Gilmour shot "Jirga" with local amateur actors in one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Felix Media

A dozen Afghans, faces chiseled and devoured by long shaggy beards, discuss the fate to be reserved for a former Australian soldier who has just presented themselves in their village. "Our tradition enjoins us to forgive those who sincerely repent" insists one of them. "Let's kill him! " retorts another. The sequence, striking in its realism, features a tribal council – a jirga which gives its title to the film. In the second half of 2018, this Australian independent feature film, shot in Afghanistan, received two of the most prestigious awards in the film industry on the mainland.

The conditions of realization of JirgaAs incredible as they are dangerous, Australian moviegoers stunned. They bring to the film a rare authenticity, which has earned him the acclaim of the Afghan community as well as critics. Building on this success, he came to Sydney on January 31, and is expected in US theaters in the spring.

"If the scene seems so authentic, it's because some of these men thought they were really judging a former soldier," remembers Sam Smith, the Australian actor who, along with director Benjamin Gilmour, took the crazy project of shooting, with very little money and local amateur actors, a film in one of the most dangerous countries in the world. world. "In fact, when Ben contacted me to play the character of Mike, the Australian soldier, the shooting was to take place in Pakistan," says Sam Smith. "I was seduced by a non-Manichean scenario that focused on portraying the humanity of the various protagonists of the Afghan conflict. "

With the means of the edge

The film opens with a military intervention by the international coalition in a village in Kandahar province, and the stunned look of Mike who has just mistakenly killed a father. Three years later, he returns to Afghanistan to apologize to the relatives of his victim. The director follows him, camera on the shoulder, in this perilous quest for redemption through the majestic landscapes of the center of the country.

"I slept fully dressed, my passport in my pocket, a knife under the pillow, just in case …" Sam Smith, lead actor

This camera, Benjamin Gilmour bought it in a supermarket, shortly after being dropped by his Pakistani producer. "We were already there, the Pakistani secret service was following us, we had no money left. We decided to go to Afghanistan and to get by with the means on board ", says Sam Smith. The actor lost six kilos during a shoot of just a few weeks but especially "Experiencing". Sam Smith remembers the nights spent in Jalalabad, the day after the kidnapping of a Westerner. "I slept fully dressed, my passport in the pocket, a knife under the pillow, just in case …" But when the Australian Embassy tells them to leave the country, the two men refuse. To the diplomats, who ask how they can speed up their departure, they propose to communicate their geographical coordinates to the American soldiers so as not to be forced to interrupt the shooting, for fear of a strike, at each flyby. drone.

Read also Australian hostage freed in Afghanistan

Paradoxically, it is in one of the areas most spared by the conflict that the danger is most immediate. The actor who embodies the taxi driver, an Afghan veteran, does not know how to drive. He does not speak English either, like most other actors on the spot, who sometimes play the roles of bodyguards, intermediaries with local authorities or performers. It is thanks to their involvement that the feature film will finally see the light of day. It is also thanks to these extreme filming conditions that the Afghan reality oozes through every shot of the film.

Isabelle Dellerba (Sydney, correspondence)

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