Entertainment Hive 2020

Harsh justice in the Australian outback

By Honey B

Filmmaker Warwick Thornton is a storyteller at heart and his latest production is very close to his heart. Inspired by true events, Sweet Country, is a classic western set in 1929 in outback Northern Territory. Written by Thornton’s close colleague David Tranter, the film’s story centres around Aboriginal stockman Sam (Hamilton Morris), who kills white station owner Harry March (Ewen Leslie) in self- defence. Sam and his wife Lizzie (Natassia Gorey-Furber) go on the run across the outback landscape. They are pursued by Sergeant Fletcher (Bryan Brown) who has the help of Aboriginal tracker Archie (Gibson John) and local landowners Fred Smith (Sam Neill) and Mick Kennedy (Thomas M. Wright). Sweet Country has an undeniable political message as well as a personal message and the landscape literally speaks to audience members. “This movie resonates with people,’’ Thornton says. “It’s a neo-western and a movie that I have wanted to make for a long time. “It is important to tell stories like this to remind us of who we are and how Australia was created. “There’s a saying that the nation was ‘built off of the sheep’s back’, but it was built through borderline slavery and racism.’’ The indigenous filmmaker returned to his hometown of Alice Springs for the shoot, which took place across 22 days in the picturesque MacDonnell Ranges. There was an intimate knowledge of the land that come through in the movie and with Thornton’s decision to not use any music in the film the Australian landscape is truly alive. “You can listen to the country in this movie, there is no music. “I didn’t want to dictate emotion to the audience through the music, but rather bring a connection between the land and the audience. It’s about being truthful to the audience.’’ Thornton has assembled an amazing ensemble cast including well-known actors Sam Neill, Bryan Brown and Matt Day as well as superb indigenous actors including Hamilton Morris and Natassia Gorey Furber. “Hamilton was such a find and he connected with the land, which was very important. He was just amazing on this film and he came through for me on this shoot many times. “Both Hamilton and Natassia are from Alice Springs and they know the surrounding area we were filming in.’’ Sweet Country is a rare gem of a film and pushes the boundaries just like Thornton’s 2009 directorial debut in Samson and Delilah, which was a tough portrayal of addiction and poverty in indigenous communities. Festival audiences have also put their support behind Thornton’s honest picture with the film winning the special jury prize at the Venice Film Festival as well as a gong from the Toronto International Film Festival and an audience award from the Adelaide Film Festival. Sweet Country is in-cinemas now
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