SYNOPSIS: The Australian maverick director George Gittoes travels to Terror Central in Pakistan, where he decides to shoot a local Pashto telie film (high on kitsch and machine guns) right under the nose of the Taliban’s anti-entertainment forces. He throws himself into the clash of fundamentalism and entertainment – virtual and real – in this off-beat docu-drama mix. Gittoes takes us on a surprising, terrifying journey, into the forbidden zones of Pakistan’s explosive North West Frontier. Is it a documentary or is this ‘war art’?
CREDITS A Gittoes & Dalton Production: www.Gittoes-Dalton-Films.com Feature documentary: 91.40 min.
HD DVD, Digi Cine & B/Cast Masters Year of production: 2009
World premiere: Telluride Film Festival, Director’s Cut section, September 2009
European premiere: International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, Competition, November 2009
Director/ Cinematographer – George Gittoes
Producer – Gabrielle Dalton
Editor – Nick Meyers
ASE DISTRIBUTION North America: ICM, Jessica Lacy, firstname.lastname@example.org Other regions: SBS –Australia – with interest in regional and broadcasting partners.
Contact: Kristin Burgham: Kristin.Burgham@sbs.com.au or producer Gabrielle Dalton: email@example.com
IN THE PRESS
Stephen Farber in The Hollywood Reporter: “It’s rare for a documentary to be called truly eyeopening, but this picture accomplishes the feat of showing us a part of the world we could never imagine. (…) As a piece of filmmaking, “Miscreants” is impressive. The cinematography thrusts us into the middle of the action, and the editing is dynamic. It’s impossible to separate the filmmaker from the stranger-than-fiction adventure he chronicles.”
David D’Arcy in The National: in The Miscreants of Taliwood, the veteran Australian director George Gittoes happens upon the improbable emerging film industry in Peshawar, Pakistan. In Taliwood, as Gittoes calls it in a nod to Hollywood and Bollywood, the Taliban, which operates nearby, react with punitive violence on “miscreants” when films depicting westernstyle “decadence” are made or sold in the region. (…) It’s hard to imagine Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock bounding through the North-Western Frontier Provinces mountains like Gittoes.
ABOUT THE FILM
Maverick super doc Director George Gittoes has a reputation for taking us into the under layers of the least traveled places: Iraq (SOUNDTRACK TO WAR), Miami’s rap ‘hoods (RAMPAGE); in The MISCREANTS OF TALIWOOD, the final in his NO EXIT Trilogy, covering the Bush War on Terror Era, Gittoes takes us to the world’s next hot spot – the Tribal Belt on the Pakistan-Afghan border. Gittoes extreme and risky Miscreants journey begins as he enters the crisis of democracy in Pakistan, outside the Red Mosque siege in Islamabad, July 2007, and gathers pace as he witnesses Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in Lahore, Jan 2008.
Reaching into the heart of what is happening in Pakistan, Gittoes dresses in local costume and travels to Peshawar and the North West Frontier, right into the forbidden zones of the Tribal Belt – the reputed hiding place of Osama Bin Laden. Who are the Miscreants?
Pakistani society is being purged of non-conformists. Included in the Taliban’s list of ‘miscreants’, are men who cut their beards and hair, boys who look at girls, women, the educated, foreigners, filmmakers, actors, singers, dancers and store owners who sell any kind of entertainment or mobile phones. Store bombings and public beheadings are the public messages of the local enforcers.
To enter this world, director George Gittoes agrees to double as an actor in a Pashto telie movie, and takes us into the lives of a local action hero, Javed Musazai, and his crew, as they struggle to make a living and hold onto the entertainment industry under threat by the Taliban. Crossing the lines between doc and drama, real and unreal, this circus-like troupe shoot their ‘Taliwood’ feature film in one of the craziest locations in the world – just a cave or two away from where the most wanted man in the world runs ‘Terror Central’.
In this full-of-surprises doc-drama blend, the telie movies, with their hilarious adaptation of American movie culture – meets village storyteller and Bollywood style, are intercut with the real life drama of Gittoes’ extreme journey into the no-go zone of the Taliban controlled Tribal Belt. As the director gets into his role as a telie Movie bad-guy, and the drama script hits its punch lines, real life in Pakistan hits meltdown. Gittoes cuts into the socio-political heat and opens up the dichotomies of global/regional popular culture, gathering the fall out from both a polarized fundamentalist Islamic perspective and that of the permissive West. It plays with questions relevant to us all. What is real, what is unreal and what is too real, in a post-digital world? And who controls it?
Director/Cinematographer/Writer Gittoes is an artist, photographer, writer and filmmaker. George Gittoes has been working in the medium of film, for 35 years – he is an internationally recognized exhibiting artist and photographer, and known for his unusual visual diaries, with their mix of text and spontaneous graphics. Gittoes has been working on themes of cultures in conflict, with producer Gabrielle Dalton, since the 1980’s – resulting in feature films: WARRIOR & LAYMEN (Aboriginal Australia, 1985), BULLETS OF THE POETS (Nicaragua, 1987), and his recently completed NO EXIT trilogy, SOUNDTRACKS TO WAR (Iraq, 2005, 95 mins) RAMPAGE (Miami, 2006, 103 mins), THE MISCREANTS OF TALIWOOD (Pakistan, 2008, 91.40 mins). 1997: Gittoes was awarded an Order of Australia AM. 2008: Gittoes was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of NSW. Australia. Gittoes long term production company was formed in 1981, with his artistic collaborator Gabrielle Dalton.
Producer Gabrielle Dalton has collaborated closely with Gittoes for over 30 years. Since 1980 Dalton has produced a range of performances, exhibitions, published writing and film productions – including feature docs WARRIORS & LAWMEN (‘84), THE BULLETS OF THE POETS (’86), making films and bringing the artist’s concepts into reality, in exhibition, and large scale theatrical performances, combining her skills as arts journalist, fine art historian, and film script writer-producer and published author. She is principal, with Gittoes, in the production company, Gittoes & Dalton Productions, creator of the NO EXIT feature doc trilogy, SOUNDTRACK TO WAR, RAMPAGE, and THE MISCREANTS OF TALIWOOD.
A.S.E. Editor Nick’s drama editing experience plays an important part in his collaborations with documentary maker George Gittoes, as seen in the highly acclaimed feature docs RAMPAGE and THE MISCREANTS OF TALIWOOD. His feature film credits include THE BOYS, THE BANK, THREE DOLLARS and the recently released BALIBO. He was also a consultant on the Rolf De Heer’s TEN CANOES, and worked on the Spike Jonze film WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. Nick received an AFI Award nomination for editing THE BOYS. For THE BANK, he won both the Australian Film Critics Award and the IF Award for editing, and in 2006, he was nominated for an AFI award for ‘Best Sound in a Documentary’ for Gittoes’ RAMPAGE. Between 1993 & 2000 Nick created the dramatic lighting effects at Sydney’s famous Tender Trap.
Producer Gabrielle Dalton comments on the creative process: “This film could not have been made without George’s extraordinary risk taking and adventurous drive on location. He was truly audacious. The script evolved – as the production was begun on just a premise – (a working method we have perfected as a team), and involved long discussions about what worked on screen, what was happening in Pakistan (and its implications), and how to integrate the story of Gittoes interacting with the situations and characters, into the film’s front story.
The editor also became involved in this process. And in this way, The Miscreants was ‘found as a film’ in the editing room. “ From early on, we knew that we would be making a film with a very new ‘look’ and a lot of humor built around the backblocks-Bollywood style local movie makers of the NW Frontier were using, but there was so much material, so many storylines – it was an extremely complex post production process.” “The editor and I found ourselves as fascinated with the back story (how Gittoes got access to this world, his relationships with the actors) as the front story.
So, after the first 2 months post production, we got George back into Pakistan to gather more about the lives of the actors. When George arrived back in Peshawar in Dec 2007, he was shocked to find that in just a matter of months, so many of his entertainment industry friends had gone from successful careers to living under the shadow of an apocalypse.” “Our reactions to this rapidly changing situation, propelled The Miscreants into its final complex form. The logistically risky real life drama of director/artist Gittoes’ outreach to meet, understand and work with other artists in a society in meltdown (where creative people are a primary target), gave us the structure.”
“As a filmmaking team, we tackled the factual documentary side of our subject – including Taliban produced ‘horror’ movies, which gives a window on the coercion by fear factor which is happening in Pakistan, but had to find a way for this tough and exclusive investigative current affairs footage, to sit alongside our drama and comedy footage – a mix of genres and media approaches which presented quite a challenge ” “ We financed and co produced two Pashto feature films (Servants & Fire) with Pashto actors and crews, as part of our production process, and used the virtual-world drama of the telie movies (which were circulating from the street market stalls in Peshawar and beyond, with the proceeds going to support the Pashto actors and crews) as part of the style and visual informational texture of THE MISCREANTS. “These telie movies, with their hilarious appropriation of American movie culture-mixed with village story teller, gave us what we needed for an edgy play on the global one world/ regionally divided world dichotomy. We had fun with them, chopped them up and played with them, using the clips throughout the film, as ‘audience surprises’, and for their over the top entertainment and comedy value.”