Not in Kansas anymore: Warwick Thornton on Samson & Delilah

Warwick Thornton talks us through the use of space, music and ‘sexy dancing’ in the opening scenes of his Aboriginal love-on-the-run drama.

Updated: 15 December 2020

By Nick Bradshaw, So Mayer

Sight and Sound

Samson & Delilah is a love story set against the harsh realities of Aboriginal life in central Australia – first in a hopeless outback reservation, then on the run in the big, hostile city (Alice Springs).

Its teenage protagonists barely speak; they’re beaten, abducted and lose themselves in petrol-sniffing, yet the film has an eloquence and gritted hopefulness born of its ability to express the characters’ dreams and determination, even when they struggle to.

“Passionately affecting, it’s also so much richer than any attempt to describe it,” wrote Trevor Johnston in our February 2010 issue. The film won Cannes’ 2009 Camera d’Or and seven Australian Film Institute awards.

In this video interview Warwick Thornton, the film’s writer-director-photographer-composer, tells Sophie Mayer about his drive to make the film, his search for subtle narrative props and his use of cinematic space, light and music to open the film up for its audience – as illustrated by the opening scenes. Ana Gabriel’s romantic songs provide Delilah’s spark of interest in Samson, a “pure emotion of love”; Rowan McNamara, as Samson, provides the “sexy dance”.

Originally published: 13 July 2010