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Outback western Sweet Country wins over Venice

Film & TV

Filmmaker Warwick Thornton’s new movie Sweet Country, which will have its Australian premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival next month, has received a standing ovation and glowing reviews in Venice.

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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.

Yesterday, his follow-up feature premiered at the Venice Film Festival and was equally well received.

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 stockman who kills a white station owner in self-defence, and is then chased across the desert.

The trailer for the film was released yesterday, ahead of its Australian debut at Adelaide Film Festival on October 7.

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.”

This article was first published on The Daily Review.

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