TIFF 2018: Our Review of ‘Jirga’

TIFF 2018: Our Review of ‘Jirga’

Can audiences please get a different palette in films depicting the Middle East? Because Jirga‘s giving us the same aesthetic. It even slightly bleaches those out to reinforce stereotypes of a desolate Afghanistan.

And I suppose it’s refreshing to see Kabul as a bustling city of color and light. Or the occasional greenery outside Bamiyan.

It’s too bad the film leaves those for a village near Kandahar. We’re following coalition vet Mike Wheeler’s (Sam Smith) haphazard act of contrition.

It’s admirable that director Benjamin Gilmour shot the film in all of those locations. He put himself and his actors of either nationality at risk, but for what?

Jirga in Pashto means ‘an Afghan court of tribal elders,’ as the film explains through an inter-title. Mike wants to return to the village’s elders to put himself on trial after accidentally shooting one of their men. That death is actually one of the first scenes that the film shows though night vision.

Those shots already ruins things since it shows us Mike during that past life. There, he looks older than he does in the rest of the film. Either phase of Smith looks less like a soldier and more like a finance bro on a misguided trip.

The character itself is a mess because of how he gets to his destination. Like roping a taxi driver (Sher Alam Miskeen Ustad) into doing his bidding. Gilmour might have made this film with good intentions but there’s no dignity on display here.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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