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aka - Samson & Delilah
Australia 2009
Directed by
Warwick Thornton
101 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
4 stars

Samson And Delilah (2009)

Synopsis: Samson (Rowan McNamara) and Delilah (Marissa Gibson) are two Aboriginal teenagers who live in a remote community outside Alice Springs. Delilah spends her days caring for and painting with her Nana (Mitjili Gibson). Samson is a chronic petrol sniffer. When death and violence intervene in the teens’ lives, the pair steal a car and head for the city. As they discover how harsh life can be for a pair of homeless kids, they also fall in love.

Warwick Thornton is already getting a name as a result of his short films Nana, Green Bush and Mimi. With this stunning first feature he taps into a world that he has seen first-hand during his life in Alice. He describes the film as “my reason for being . . .my good fight”. And indeed this groundbreaking and moving film brings the good fight to the many Australians who don’t have a clue just how tough life must be for indigenous Australians, especially those in the Northern Territory. Never before have we been confronted with the raw and desperate life of petrol sniffing and homeless Aborigines with nowhere to go and nothing to do.

Thornton writes, shoots and directs the film. He aimed for an intimacy and closeness and he succeeds - we are almost there with the dust, the poverty and the repetitive cycle of daily life. Thornton’s cinematographic eye - for the outback landscape in particular - is stunning , and to his extreme credit he also knows how and when to use silence. The sounds of birds, and of Samson’s brothers’ rough front-porch band, along with discordant violin strains when required, are all perfectly timed for maximum effect.

The actors are all superb. Gibson, playing Nana, is actually a real life painter. The dot paintings she creates are emblematic of the many fine artworks produced by remote communities which, as in real life, are paid peanuts, whilst the galleries sell them for a fortune to collectors. Delilah’s nurturing spirit is shown in her care for her grandmother, and young Gibson also brings out the inner strength of this remarkable young girl. McNamara brings a cheekiness to Samson. In a couple of different scenes he displays extremes of emotion from rampaging anger to a free and sexy ability to relate to life and music.

When the youngsters land up in Alice, they hang out under a bridge with an alcoholic hobo named Gonzo, played magnificently by Thornton’s real-life alcoholic brother Scott. The harshness of white Territory society is seen as Delilah walks the streets trying to sell paintings to indifferent whites, all living the good life.

Thornton is a humanist- he presents his characters without judgment or comment. Some horrific things happen to the teenagers, yet they are presented in a blunt and almost matter-of-fact way. Despite this, we as an audience are shocked. The only comment really is that love is the key to pulling people out of the mire. The filmmaker humanizes the problem of petrol sniffing because we relate to these two kids and so we eventually cease condemning. And yes, we sense hope at the film’s end – though I feel the director is more optimistic than my reason leads me to be.

Samson & Delilah resonates with truth and will open the eyes of all those who mistakenly believe a hard-won apology made life better for the first inhabitants of a home we now call our own.




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