LFF Official Competition spotlight: Sweet Country
Get up to speed with the films playing in competition at this year's BFI London Film Festival. Today's pick: Warwick Thornton's Sweet Country.
What's it about?
An Australian western told from the point of view of Sam (Hamilton Morris), an Aboriginal rancher on the run after killing a boozed-up white man in self-defence. Certain he’ll face mob justice, Sam leads his wife, Lizzie (Natassia Gorey-Furber), off into the outback, where his knowledge of the land gives him an advantage over his pursuers. Sam Neill has a cameo as the Christian ranch manager, preaching equality as the Lord’s word.
Who made it?
Sweet Country is the second film from Indigenous filmmaker Warwick Thornton. His debut, Samson and Delilah, appeared at LFF in 2009.
What people are saying
“An Australian Western about colonialism, it consciously revises the racial politics of the genre, while emphasizing vibrant visuals, expressive sound design, and a radically loose narrative structure” - Chelsea Phillips-Carr, Cinema Scope
“Fiercely powerful storytelling, simple and muscular in one way, but also conveying nuance and sophistication in its depiction of character” - Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“Seeded with barbed observations on colonialism, cultural erasure and rough justice, kept poetically succinct by Thornton’s lithe, soaring visual storytelling” - Guy Lodge, Variety
Why we’re excited
"This film runs deep for me. When I was working at the Australian Film Institute, one of my first jobs booking films into cinemas was on a project called From Sand to Celluloid, an extraordinary initiative set up by SBS Independent and the Australian Film Commission (as it was then) to ensure that Indigenous Australians were getting the opportunity to make films and tell their stories. It was 1996 and the director of Sweet Country, Warwick Thornton, made his first short film Payback through that scheme. Ten years later, when I was director of Sydney Film Festival, we played his brilliant short film Nana as a surprise inclusion at my first Opening Night to great response. In 2009, his first feature Samson & Delilah won the Camera d’Or at Cannes, and now his new film comes to London off the back of receiving the Special Jury Prize at Venice and winning Toronto’s Platform competition. I am thrilled for Warwick’s success. But what runs even deeper is that, like many Australians, I feel profoundly troubled by Australia’s racist past, and just as uneasy about the present. This eloquent and persuasive film confronts that past, it tells a very important story – based on truth – and it does so while also being a grand work of cinema. Sweet Country is a searing, unforgettable western that will resonate for years to come." - Clare Stewart, Festival Director