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Pyrmont Movie Reviews: Samson & Delilah

samson delilah Pyrmont Movie Reviews: Samson & Delilah

If interested in seeing Samson & Delilah, check out our review by Denieal Williams. Samson & Delilah was screened at the opening of the 10th Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival at the Sydney Opera House last week and  is being shown at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival.

The posters for Samson & Delilah say simply “A Love Story,” which calls to mind all sorts of assumptions. Namely, one expects a ‘feel good’ experience that leaves the viewer feeling optimistic. However, it becomes clear within the first couple minutes of Samson & Delilah that the audience will go through many emotions but optimistic would not feature highly on the list. It became clear that no one would be perched outside their lover’s window during a rainstorm cradling a boom box and blasting Peter Gabriel and no one would be ‘had at hello.’ This sort of frank storytelling – and the absence of canned saccharine dialogue – is refreshing. In fact for most of the film the protagonists don’t speak at all – mainly communicating with each other through noises, gestures and throwing rocks or clumps of dirt at each other.

The film explores the relationship of two teenagers in a remote impoverished settlement outside of Alice Springs. Stripped of all artifice this portrayal of love is achingly realistic and heartbreaking. Director/Writer Warwick Thornton captures the isolation and the monotony of living in this small community. Samson and Delilah are played by two inexperienced 14-year-old actors who grew up in remote communities similar to the one portrayed in the film. This lends to the compelling and startlingly real nature of the film. Delilah (Marissa Gibson) is in charge of caring for her ailing grandmother, and lovingly ensures that she takes her medication and goes to the clinic. Nana, played by Marissa’s real life grandmother (Mitjili Gibson), is a renowned indigenous artist who lives in abject poverty as a result of being regularly ripped off by an unscrupulous art dealer.

Samson (Rowan McNamara) lives with three brothers who seem to barely register his existence -devoting all their energy to their band. The hopelessly lost Samson fills the gaps of time inhaling petrol and causing trouble in his dilapidated community.

Samson in a haze of drug induced oblivion clobbers one of his brothers with a hunk of wood and in return is beaten to the point of unconsciousness. This combined with the death of Delilah’s grandmother – which caused her before unseen relatives to savagely beat her under the assumption that she was a neglectful carer – is a turning point in the story. The teenagers escape into Alice Springs and are vulnerable to a cavalcade of dangers in the city. At many points in the film boredom, poverty, violence, sexual assault, racism and drugs threaten to take these characters out.

The only silver lining is the resolve of the characters themselves, mainly Delilah. The prospects for these young people are grim at best, and Thornton’s portrayal shows the challenges that young people in settlements similar to the one portrayed face.

The film premiered at the Adelaide Film festival, winning the audience award, and has been getting international attention including being shown at The Cannes Film Festival. Samson & Delilah, though at times very hard to watch is beautiful in its understated and raw portrayal of Aboriginal life in rural Australia. It is definitely an important film to see.


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