Jirga: A powerful film responding to the crimes in our name

October 18, 2018
In 'Jirga', Australian soldier Sam Smith returns to Afghanistan to ask for forgiveness.

Directed by Benjamin Gilmour
Starring Sam Smith, Sher Alam Miskeen Ustad, Amir Shah Talash
In cinemas

Jirga is a truly extraordinary film, which took me by surprise. I was expecting a self-indulgent, somewhat melodramatic story of personal redemption. But, while starting from that premise, it is far more than that.

The story line is simple: an Australian soldier kills a civilian during a night raid in Afghanistan. Later, battling PTSD, he returns to the village to ask forgiveness.

Shot entirely on location in Afghanistan, the film confounds Western assumptions about the country. Yes, there are dangerous gun-toting, bearded tribespeople. But they have customs of welcoming and protecting strangers. Those who have suffered the most understand compassion.

There were possibly about a dozen English sentences spoken in this film. There is a bit more Pashtun, not all of which is translated.

It is not the humans, but the overwhelming, silent emptiness of the landscape that dominates. This is a land that absorbs human conceits, such as the “War on Terror”.

Jirga is subtle and powerful. It is a mature response to all the stupidities that have been committed in our names.

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