You won’t be alone if you come out of Samson and Delilah in a dream-like state, as the mesmerising power of this new Australian film is overwhelming. Once you come back to your senses you may find yourself becoming suddenly aware that such a film is long overdue. Cinematic representations of contemporary Indigenous Australians are extremely rare, yet alone representations of the communities living in abject poverty in central and northern Australia. However, Samson and Delilah is not a didactic, social-realist issue film with an axe to grind, but a skilfully crafted teen romance that is as beautiful as it is confronting. Set in an isolated community in the Australian desert, Samson and Delilah is about the growing understated love between two Indigenous Australian teenagers. While Delilah looks after her ill grandmother, Samson spends his days sniffing petrol, begging and generally being a nuisance. They have little in common but after both becoming victims of violence they team up, leave their community and head to Alice Springs to fend for themselves.
On Tuesday 10 March 2009 I interviewed writer/director Warwick Thornton and producer Kath Shelper in the JOY 94.9 studios in Melbourne. The pair had just begun promoting Samson and Delilah, a film that has since generated an enormous amount of interest and was recently selected to screen in Official Selection at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
Listen to the interview:
Thomas Caldwell: Samson and Delilah is being described as a love story and yet it is not exactly what audiences expect when they hear “love story”.
Warwick Thornton: It’s an Indigenous story from Central Australia. What’s the best way to see a film about teenagers living in an Aboriginal community than through love? Because with love there are no barriers, there are no walls, it’s not black and white, it’s not male or female. Love works absolutely across the board. It’s soul rather than issues. As far as getting a film about the kids in Alice Springs out there to a wider audience, I think love is the best place to set it.
Thomas Caldwell: Is that where you are from originally? Alice Springs?
Warwick Thornton: Alice Springs born and bred and I live there still today.
Thomas Caldwell: And the film was obviously shot on location.
Warwick Thornton: Yep.
Thomas Caldwell: I can’t imagine how else you would get those incredible visuals.
Warwick Thornton: Yeah, we went to LA and the whole thing was done in a studio –
Thomas Caldwell: – in a massive postproduction house. If you look closely Nicholas Cage is in there somewhere.
Warwick Thornton: He has a cameo as Gonzo.