Known for directing one of the most powerful Australian films of the past decade, Samson and Deliah, it’s no surprise that Warwick Thornton has brought in a string of awards for his new movie SWEET COUNTRY.
The film, based on real events from the 1920’s Northern Territory, follows Aboriginal farmhand Sam who is forced to flee his home with his pregnant wife after killing a white man in self-defence. Quickly, a posse of law enforcement members, local landowners, and an Aboriginal tracker begin a massive manhunt operation, determined to put Sam on trial.
With a stellar cast including Sam Neill (Peaky Blinders), Bryan Brown (The Light Between Oceans) and Thomas M. Wright (Top of the Lake), there is no shortness of talent as the actors perfectly re-enact the gripping race to find a man who’s mastered hiding in the Australian bush.
Taking out ‘Best Picture’ at the 2017 Asia Pacific Screen Awards and ‘Special Jury Prize’ at Venice’s 2017 Film Festival, this beautifully powerful film is being celebrated locally and internationally for its raw depiction of the Australian outback.
We sat down with the film’s director to find out what inspired SWEET COUNTRY:
Where did your passion come from to create ‘Sweet Country’?
Sweet Country was a story that came from my friend David Tranter; we grew up together in Alice Springs. David came to me with the film he had written with the help of writer Steven McGregor, and I loved it. It’s a story about what happened to our people when the pastoralists came to our country.
How difficult was it sourcing information on the real-life events that took part in the 1920s?
Not that hard. Sweet Country is loosely based on true events – this is the story of Wilaberta Jack and this is combined with stories from David Tranter’s family and grandfather.
What other films or television series have inspired you to create this film?
David Tranter originally made a documentary called Wilaberta Jack about the events told in Sweet Country and clearly, we have inspiration from the Western genre and the period Westerns we grew up watching.
Some of Australia’s best stars joined the cast – how did they find working on such an important Australian film?
They seemed to love it. It was hot while we were shooting, but the desert gets under your skin and I think actors appreciate working on stories that have something to say.
What was the most exciting part about shooting in the outback?
Shooting in the beautiful Macdonnell ranges where I grew up. We [also] built a period town we called ‘Henry’ – it’s always great to create a world.
The film performed very well internationally too – do you think you’ve provided a deeper insight into Australia’s history with Sweet Country?
Yes – the country needs to grow up and acknowledge its genesis and its past so that we can have a chance at a better future. Our lead actor Hamilton Morris cried when we put the chains around his neck because it had happened to his grandfather.
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