Lightyear Entertainment has acquired US rights from Visit Films to Australia’s 2019 Oscar submission Jirga, two years after it distributed the country’s Oscar-nominated drama, Tanna.
Jirga stars Sam Smith as former Australian soldier Mike Wheeler, who returns to Afghanistan seeking redemption from the family of a civilian he killed during the war. Hoping for forgiveness, the veteran puts his life in the hands of the village justice system, the Jirga.
Writer-director Benjamin Gilmour shot the film guerrilla-style with former Taliban members under dangerous conditions in what remains one of the world’s most treacherous places.
“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,” said Lightyear CEO Arnie Holland, “And the courage that the protagonist displays is extraordinary. 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.”
The filmmakers originally intended to shoot in Pakistan, however after the Pakistani government refused permits over political sensitivities in the script, funding fell through.
Gilmour and Smith decided to shoot on the fly in Afghanistan with a single camera they bought at a shopping mall. Jirga is in Pashtun with some English dialogue. John Maynard served as producer.
Lightyear plans a spring 2019 theatrical release in the US.