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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
When thinking about Afghanistan, serenity does not come to mind. But its Pashtun warriors who repelled two British invasions in the 19th Century and a Soviet invasion in the twentieth, are also poets, singers and have a fondness for the fragrance of roses. They have a capacity for forgiveness and compassion despite their country's cycle of conflict and revenge.
Forgiveness is the strongest theme running through the film. Sam Smith pays a soldier who has returned to Afghanistan to look for a family of a civilian who he mistook for a militant and killed. Unable to live with the guilt of what he has done, he sets out to return to the village to find the family and offer to make a monetary recompense to his widow. His fate, if he survives through the perilous country controlled by the Taliban, will be in the hands of a council of village elders, a “Jirga” who will decide.
This is the third low budget film for the 43 year old Gilmour who also works as a paramedic in Sydney. He had intended to shoot in Pakistan's North West Frontier, but when he arrived permission to enter the region had been withdrawn and he had a $100,000 hole in his budget. So he became both director and camera man using a digital camera bought in a Pakistani shopping mall.
During two months the filmmakers spent in Afghanistan in mid-2016 - taking advice to stay inside when the so-called fighting season made conditions too dangerous - Gilmour and Smith thus had to make changes to the script to fit in with several changes in venue. The film was shot in just 20 days using local people to act the Afghani parts.
Gilmour, an outsider in the film industry, is learning his craft by doing. Thus when he and his producer, John Maynard won the $100,000 best film prize, Australia’s richest, at CinfestOZ, it surprised the writer-director.