Sydney Film Festival: Jirga

Rebecca Varidel
11th Jun 2018

"It is better to forgive than to seek revenge."

Forgiveness is one of the values that runs uniformly through religious and philosophical beliefs of the world. In the final passage of this film, Jirga shows the decision for forgiveness vs revenge passed from a remote Afghan village council to a small boy, the eldest son of an unarmed man, killed by former Australian soldier Mike.

"Jirga is my response to the proliferation of war-porn in the media, and the generalised depiction of Afghans as extremists. I wanted to counter the Islamic terrorist stereotype of contemporary American war propaganda by giving a human face to combatants and civilians alike, demonstrating the true cost of war on all sides" advises film maker Benjamin Gilmour.

Yet the result is so much more.

Throughout the film, we are given insight into contrasting values. None more so than when Mike (Sam Smith) throws away the vast amount of money he has brought with him, just before arrival at his destination, then leads with the words "I have come to confess."

Interestingly we see the transformation in Mike from the Western observance of compensation in seeking forgiveness that he carries at the beginning of the film to a much deeper resonance. While undergoing hardships and even life threatening dangers on his journey, what he undergoes is like a right of passage, that takes him from a logical and material concept of forgiveness to human connection with an open heart.

Filmed in Afghanistan, set against the outstanding rugged countryside, Jirga is also filmed with tender humour and beautiful music.

Jirga premiered this year at Sydney Film Festival.