Warwick Thornton's potent, tacitly contentious feature about a pair of outcast Aboriginal kids who flee from their tiny central Australian community won the Camera d'Or for Best First Film at the Festival de Cannes in May. It's a major accolade, but the chances are that it pales as a reward for Thornton and his collaborators beside their film's success in the multiplexes of Australia. Samson & Delilah has entered the national conversation across the Tasman the way Once Were Warriors once did here.
It's not the taut poetry of Thornton's sublimely visual narrative style that people are talking about: it's violence and addiction in Aboriginal communities, and how they limit the options of young Samson and Delilah, two tender, uncertain kids whose spirits are sustained by little more than their teasing, unadmitted love for each other. (The lively mix of candour and shyness and mutual incredulity in the two first-time actors is so fresh you forget they are acting at all.) The frankness with which Thornton depicts their descent into pariahdom in Alice Springs has a staunch matter-of-fact humanity about it, a determination to stand by one's own, that is both excruciating and stirring to behold. And though you may spend long passages of this film dreading what's coming next, Thornton always nurtures the hopefulness that allow us and his young protagonists a chance at redemption. Unmissable. — BG
“Samson & Delilah looks and sounds (its sound design, both playful and dissonant, is terrific) like no Australian film I've seen. Timeless and also utterly contemporary, it will leave hearts bruised, but aching with joy.” — Sukhdev Sandhu, Daily Telegraph