Indigenous film 'Samson and Delilah' to get French debut

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The Independent Culture

Australian indigenous director Warwick Thornton's gritty love story about two petrol-sniffing Aboriginal teenagers shows in France this month, its first major foreign release after stunning festival audiences worldwide.

"Samson and Delilah", Thornton's debut feature, released at home and in New Zealand early this year before showing at Cannes in May, where it was awarded the Camera d'Or as best first film by arguably the world's foremost film festival.

The Cannes jury described the movie shot in a derelict Aboriginal community in northern Australia as "the best love film we've seen for many a year."

Shown since at festivals from London to New York, the stark and almost silent movie has grossed millions at home and is to be Australia's entry in the race for the best Foreign Oscar.

It follows the slow shy courtship between a pair of teenagers living in miserable conditions in tin shacks in a hungry isolated community, and the tragedy that sends them fleeing to the city of Alice Springs where they end up living rough in petrol-sniffing oblivion.

"It was for my people and it has become such an incredible journey," Thornton, a big burly man with a smile, said at a preview Paris screening, where it raised thunderous applause.

"Everything that's in the film I've seen personally," he told AFP.

The picture comes out on November 25 in around 50 cinemas in France and will release in Britain next year.

Thornton, 38, who has been making short films for two decades, grew up in Alice Springs, where he hung out on the streets until getting a job as a camera assistant on a documentary.

Unlike the pair in the film, however, he grew up within a family.

The picture, he said "is about Aboriginal kids growing up and how incredibly strong and resilient and beautiful they are, and how they are neglected, not only by their own people and their own families, but by the system."

Shot mainly in the Central Australian language Warlpiri, the movie startles not only by its authenticity and indictment of white Australia's treatment of Aboriginals, but by the fact it is almost silent.

"You don't have to talk," Thornton said of the long silences between first-time Aboriginal actors Rowan McNamara and Marisa Gibson, both 14 at the time.