Benjamin Gilmour’s Afghanistan-set drama Jirga posted solid figures at three key art house locations last weekend, the start of an old-fashioned platform release.

The writer-director and producer-distributor John Maynard are confident that momentum will build for the saga starring Sam Smith as a former Australian soldier who returns to Afghanistan seeking redemption from the family of a civilian man he accidentally killed.

“It’s encouraging that many who have seen the film already have signed up to become advocates for its message and importance,” Gilmour tells IF. “All weekend I’ve been fielding comments, with complete strangers emailing to tell us how Jirga moved them and to thank us for making this film.

“Many have told me they feel Jirga is a pro-peace film that resonated with them in the context of the current hateful and divisive political and human rhetoric. I’ve had quite a few people vow to become advocates for it, which I guess is another way of telling us they’re committed to spreading the word.”

Maynard is pouring the film’s $100,000 CinefestOZ prize into the P&A, including a publicity tour by Gilmour and Smith and an extensive outreach program to reach audiences beyond the cinema.

Distributed by Maynard’s Footprint Films, the drama took nearly $28,000 at nine screens last weekend, which brings the total including previews and festival screenings to $109,000.

Only two – Cinema Nova and the Luna Leederville – had full sessions and there were three sessions at the Hayden Orpheum. Those three locations generated $17,178, a screen average of $5,726.

“These results are pleasing and cinemas who read the figures will see value in being part of a wider post – school holidays release,” says Maynard. “I based the release strategy on the data I was seeing for wide releases of small Australian films. Also, there’s a continuing trend of 10-12 new titles released each week, more screens being opened and audiences contracting across the board. Basically it’s an old fashioned platform release.”

It’s yet to play in Queensland, which will likely follow the Brisbane International Film Festival screening. Co-funded by Screen Australia, the film premiered in competition at the Sydney Film Festival after sold-out screenings at MIFF and had its international debut in the Discovery section of the Toronto International Film Festival.

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