US cinema release for Benjamin Gilmour’s ‘Jirga’


The US distributor which released Tanna, Australia’s first nominee for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, has acquired Benjamin Gilmour’s Jirga.

Lightyear Entertainment will launch the Afghanistan-set drama produced by John Maynard, which is Australia’s submission for that Academy Award, in cinemas next spring.

The deal was negotiated by Brooklyn, NY-based Visit Films, which also handled Bentley Dean and Martin Butler’s Tanna. Nominations for the 91st Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday January 22. The Oscars will be held on Sunday February 24 US time.

“I was struck by the way the Afghan people are shown in a revealing light that’s quite different from what you see on the evening news and the courage that the protagonist displays is extraordinary,” said Lightyear CEO Arnie Holland.

“When you add the stark beauty of the Afghan mountains and the stunning cinematography, it’s no wonder this was chosen as Australia’s submission to the Oscars.”

Lightyear Entertainment, which was founded in 1987 and has a library of more than 120 films, bought Ivan Sen’s Goldstone.

Winner of the $100,000 CinefestOZ film prize, Jirga stars Sam Smith as former Australian soldier Mike Wheeler who returns to Afghanistan seeking redemption from the family of a civilian man he killed during the war. Hoping for forgiveness, he puts his life in the hands of the village justice system – the Jirga.

The film was meant to be shot in Pakistan but after the Pakistani government refused to grant permits because the script was politically sensitive, the funding disappeared and Gilmour and Smith went on to shoot in Afghanistan with a single camera bought at a shopping mall.