The American director continues his work with themes of grief, loss and guilt.

American director Mark Jackson burst on to the indie scene in 2011 with his debut feature Without, which won the Special Jury Award at Slamdance, going on to become a firm festival favourite and earning him a “Someone to Watch” accolade at the Independent Spirit Awards.

Without centered around a young woman living on a remote island who becomes a caretaker to an old man in a vegetative state. Now Jackson is back with his second feature, War Story, which this time centres around a photojournalist, played by Catherine Keener, seeking refuge in Sicily after being released from captivity.

War Story is a sequel of sorts to Without. How I imagine that young woman to deal with similar events 35 years later. Without and War Story are the first and second installments of a trilogy set on islands that deals with grief, loss, guilt, forging a different path,” explains Jackson, who studied cinematography at Rome’s Cinecittà Studios.

Ben Kingsley and Hafsia Herzi also star in War Story, the latter as a Tunisian refugee in need of an abortion. “I am deeply moved by the resourcefulness that women all over the world exhibit when faced with limited or no access to reproductive health services. Those stories and the events of the Arab Spring in 2011 inspired the initial seeds of the story,” says Jackson who points to Romano Scavolini’s Dog Tags as the closest reference for the film.

Jackson admits that it the critical success of Without enabled him to more easily attract funding for War Story, along with high profile actors Keener and Kingsley. “I felt like the luckiest guy in the world, sitting back and watching the two of them tangle in those scenes. They are titans,” says the director, who is now working on a “top secret” next project, as well as the third and final chapter of the trilogy, this time set on an island off Vietnam.

“Aside from that I want to get everyone together in Sicily and remake War Story every five years for the rest of our lives. We had fun,” jokes Jackson.