Australian filmmaker Benjamin Gilmour on a scouting visit to Afghanistan for his new film Return To Kandahar.Movie session timesFull movies coverage
Australian filmmaker Benjamin Gilmour wants his new film to be an answer to “Hollywood war porn” such as American Sniper, Lone Survivor and Zero Dark Thirty.
The paramedic who directed the touching Pakistan drama Son of a Lion and the documentary Paramedico is planning to head to Afghanistan to shoot Return to Kandahar, a drama about a former US marine going back as a tourist to track down the family of an unarmed civilian he killed during a raid on a village.
It was partly inspired by watching how Hollywood has been telling war stories.
“The propaganda machine is so powerful,” Gilmour says. “Writing the script, I was getting angrier and angrier about these films that certain Hollywood filmmakers have been putting out – the Kathryn Bigelows and Mark Boals of the world who are connected to the CIA in their propaganda objectives – to restripe history that is beneficial to the American objectives in that part of the world.”
He is particularly critical of American Sniper for “making a hero of someone that was essentially a killer who had killed hundreds of people, albeit in a war situation. That made me feel sick.”
Bradley Cooper in American Sniper.Photo: Keith Bernstein
Gilmour went to Pakistan’s North West Frontier to shoot Son of a Lion, a 2008 drama about a boy who wants to go to school rather than follow his fundamentalist father into the gun business, with local villagers.
“As a writer and filmmaker I’ve been a guest in Afghanistan and shared tea with men my age who have only ever known a state of war,” he says. “As a paramedic and aid worker I have treated the casualties of this conflict and others, including returned soldiers with physical and mental disabilities like PTSD.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that war is profoundly immoral and, in most cases, illogical and completely unnecessary.”
The script for Return to Kandahar has been inspired by Afghan hostage stories over generations of wars. One centres on Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the American soldier whose experience of being held captive for five years by the Taliban is being recounted in the podcast Serial and turned into a movie by The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty team of Boal and Bigelow.
“With this film I want to obliterate the ‘Islamic terrorist’ stereotype at the centre of modern war propaganda,” Gilmour says.
As well as humanising Muslims, he hopes Return To Kandahar will “demonstrate the mercy in Islam that is so commonly ignored by extremists and Islamophobes alike.”
Gilmour has started an Indiegogo campaign to raise $US30,000 to supplement finance from a Pashtun philanthropist.
While keeping details quiet for security reasons, he plans to shoot in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan later this year.
“I believe very strongly in authenticity,” he says. “If I’m making a film that purports to reveal a truth about these people and a path to peace, I need to shoot on location with the very people the story is about.
“I’m not going to be dressing up Mexicans as Afghans.” Star Wars takes summer holidays box office title
Over the summer holidays, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has dominated cinemas like no movie since Avatar six years ago.
In six weeks it has taken $88.2 million and seems set to finish with more than $90 million – second on the all-time list but, without multiple repeat visits, well short of Avatar’s record $115.6 million.
By last weekend, the next biggest hit over the holidays was the comedy Daddy’s Home with $19.9 million.
On the back of a dozen Oscar nominations, The Revenant has reached a solid $13.2 million in three weeks.
While the holidays are usually a strong time for animated movies, there were decent but still somewhat disappointing takings for three this summer – The Good Dinosaur ($13.9 million), Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip ($12.6 million) and especially Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie ($7.2 million).
The hottest ticket last weekend was The Hateful Eight. Boosted by a high-profile visit by Quentin Tarantino, Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell, it took $2.4 million to top the box office chart, reaching $3.4 million with two weeks of 70mm screenings. Alvin’s purple patch at Slamdance
Screening at Slamdance: Teik-Kim Pok in Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites.
Australian filmmaker Platon Theodoris has been enjoying unfamiliar weather – “it’s minus three outside and there’s a metre of snow on the streets” – as Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites screens at Slamdance in Utah.
An informal co-production between Australia and Indonesia, the quirky blend of comedy, drama, road movie and magical realism tells a story about a pedantic translator (Teik-Kim Pok) who discovers a new world in his roof after a neighbour (Vashti Hughes) suspects their building has a flea infestation.
Made with funds raised privately, it was shot in Sydney, Kalgoorlie and Jakarta and is screening in a festival sometimes described as Sundance’s Director’s Fortnight.
“Slamdance is where the true spirit of independent film making thrives,” says Theodoris. “The film had a sold-out screening here on Saturday and we’ve already sold-out our second screening this Thursday.”
Alvin’s Harmonious World will have what’s described as a “bespoke” cinema release in March, including a a Melbourne premiere at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image with a Q&A on March 26, Sydney’s Golden Age on April 10 and Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres with a Q&A on April 20. The film’s web site is here. Cleverman to debut in Berlin
Hunter Page-Lochard as Koen in Cleverman.
The Indigenous sci-film TV series Cleverman will have its world premiere as one of four Australian projects selected for the Berlin Film Festival next month.
Produced by Goalpost Pictures (The Sapphires, Holding The Man) and directed by Wayne Blair and Leah Purcell, it will screen as one of six TV series selected from around the world in a section called Berlinale Special Series.
Cleverman is based on an idea by writer Ryan Griffen, who describes it as a show about Australia’s own superheroes.
“It’s a modern story with ancient roots, about how humans treat others in a world where Aboriginal dreamtime creatures exist,” he told Screen Blog.
The cast includes Hunter Page-Lochard, Frances O’Connor, Deborah Mailman, Iain Glen and Ryan Corr.
Thrilled producer Rosemary Blight says selection of the ABC series for Berlin is “nerve-wracking and wonderful at the same time.”
Also screening at the festival is theatre director Rosemary Myers’ quirky coming-of-age film Girl Asleep in the children’s section Generation 14plus and two Australian shorts: Bryn Chainey’s Kill Your Dinner and actor-director Alice Englert’s The Boyfriend Game.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.