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Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country wins Special Jury Prize in Venice

Warwick Thornton’s Samson and Delilah was a sensation when it premiered at Cannes Film Festival in 2009, winning the director the Caméra d’Or for best debut feature film.

Now his follow-up feature has premiered at the Venice Film Festival to glowing reviews, and has picked up the prestigious Special Jury Prize. It also won the Premio Bisato d’Oro award, the Venice Critic’s award for Best Film. 

Sweet Country is an Australian western, based on true events, set in the Northern Territory in the 1920s.

It stars Sam Neill, Bryan Brown, Ewen Leslie, and newcomer Hamilton Morris. Morris plays Sam, an Aboriginal man who kills a white man in self defence, and is then chased across the desert.

The trailer for the film was released last week, ahead of its Australian debut at Adelaide Film Festival next month.

Guy Lodge wrote in Variety: “Stately but universally accessible in its deft genre touches and border-crossing political import, the mostly English-language Sweet Country has the makings of an international arthouse talking point, sure to reach far more eyeballs than Thornton’s already healthily distributed debut … In its exploration of legal and bodily liberties, Sweet Country emerges as a furious slavery narrative of sorts, and one that should resonate with audiences far beyond Australia as the global history of human possession continues to be rewritten from multiple viewpoints.”

David Rooney wrote in The Hollywood Reporter: “in terms of its visual command, the movie could hardly be more expressive. In addition to directing, Thornton is an experienced cinematographer who grew up in Central Australia, so his connection to the land informs every handsomely composed widescreen image and every measured camera movement. Working here with his son, Dylan River, he keeps the breathtaking panoramas to a minimum, instead favoring images of rough but imposing terrain, captured in stunning natural light, that breathe sweeping epic dimensions into the story’s tragic human conflicts.”

Lee Marshall wrote for Screen Daily: There are echoes of The Searchers in a ravishingly shot film that portrays the Northern Territories frontierland of the 1920s as a place of uncertain cultural and ethical transition on both sides of the racial divide. It’s not an idle comparison: beneath its quiet surface, Sweet Country is a milestone for Australian indigenous cinema that will travel extensively after its Venice competition premiere.”

See the cast and crew of Sweet Country at its world premiere in the video below:

One response to “Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country wins Special Jury Prize in Venice

  1. Why the fuck has this not received more coverage in the mainstream media? Nicole wins two Emmys and Fairfax is chanting ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie’. Thornton wins a top prize at a top festival, and all we hear are crickets. It took Fairfax about 8 days to even mention this in a tokenistic catch-up piece. The values that lead to this designation of what is news-worthy, and what isn’t, shit me to tears. Apart from specialist sites like this, where is the serious cultural journalism in this country of philistines? Are all our newspaper editors ignorant bogans? Celebrity-worship is no substitute.


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