Junaid N. Sahibzada
A friend of mine had sent me an email telling me of some one who had visited Pakistan and fell in love with the culture and people of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Turns out that the someone was Benjamin Gilmour.
The movie is called Son of a Lion and it brushes aside all stereotypes of Pathans and narrates the story of an ordinary village boy who is born into a family of gun manufacturers but wants to give up working as a gun manufacturer and pursue his formal education. The movie stars local characters and local actors. The story revolves around a young boy from the town of Darra Adam Khel, whose father is a gun manufacturer by profession. The father of the boy wants his son to follow in his foot steps and also become a gun manufacturer, however, the boy is interested in getting a decent education.
The movie has been filmed in Darra Adam Khel during 2005-2006. The Australian Film Council funded the venture and Gilmour, who had never directed a movie, shot all the scenes and authored the script of the movie. The movie has already won numerous awards in the Australian film festival.
According to a Review Summury in the New York Times:
A sensitive adolescent being raised under strict Islamic law longs to get an education as opposed to fending off the infidels in this thoughtful meditation on post-9/11 Muslim society from Australian director Benjamin Gilmour. Sher Alam Afridi (Sher Alam Miskeen Ustad) is a widowed Pashtun and gunsmith who lives on the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan with his eleven year old son Niaz (Niaz Khun Shinwari). While Sher encourages his illiterate son to continue the family tradition of making guns, young Niaz just wants to go to school. Nevertheless, the dutiful youngster frequently runs errands that include purchasing hashish for his elderly grandfather, and relishes his visits with friendly local poet Agha Jaan (Agha Jaan) – who kindly reads Niaz the letters sent to the boy from his cousin Anousha (Anousha Vasif Shinwari) in Peshawar. Deciding that the only way out is to get an education, Niaz optimistically procures some school enrollment papers and approaches his open-minded uncle Baktiyar (Baktiyar Ahmed Afridi) for advice. Despite his best efforts, Anousha’s father fails in convincing his brother to sign the documents. Later, after an explosive argument, Niaz runs away to Peshawar and sits outside the gates of the school in hopes that someone will take him in
A review in Variety, by Richard Kuipers points out:
Finely tuned screenplay written by Gilmour in close collaboration with cast members and community representatives balances the domestic conflict with scenes of Sher Alam and his friends discussing the state of things. In tea houses and barbershops, the men express a wide variety of opinions on everything from Osama bin Laden to the war on terror and, inevitably, the regional role of the U.S. These illuminating insights into how ordinary people in this region view the world deliver a vital understanding of the cultural factors surrounding Niaz’s desire to look outward and better himself.
… Key to the film’s success is its simplicity. Gilmour, an ambulance officer by trade, achieves fine results from an untrained cast whose expressive performances make the tale feel authentic at every turn. Nicely framed compositions with a minimum of travelogue add to the feeling.
Benjamin Gilmour is deciding to make more documentaries on Pathans and the contribution of Pathans in the economic development of early 19th and 20th century Australia. Gilmour is interested in making more documentaries which show case the contribution of Pathans in economic success of Australia in the form of Ghan railway line which runs through the rugged, treacherous and dangerous terrain of the Australian outback.