Samson & Delilah (a J!-ENT DVD Review)
November 13, 2013 by Dennis Amith
“Samson & Delilah” is a film about two individuals from the Aboriginal community who try to survive among the Australian people, but learn quickly that their troubles in the community are even worse outside it. The film will no doubt strike a chord to viewers from other countries as racism, poverty and addiction can exist anywhere. But it’s how one deals with these obstacles, no matter how cruel life may seem. Warwick Thornton’s “Samson & Delilah” is recommended!
© 2010 INDIEPIX. All rights reserved.
DVD TITLE: Samson & Delilah
DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2010
DURATION: 88 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: Color, 1:85:1, Stereo, English
RATED: NOT RATED
RELEASE DATE: March 1, 2011
Written and Directed by Warwick Thornton
Produced by Kath Shelper
Assistant Producer: Peter Bartlett
Cinematography by Warwick Thornton
Edited by Roland Gallois
Production Design by Daran Fulham
Costume Design by Heather Wallace
Rowan McNamara as Samson
Marissa Gibson as Delilah
Mitjili Napanangka Gibson as Nana
Scott Thornton as Gonzo
Matthew Gibson as Samson’s Brother
Best described as a “survival love story,” Samson & Delilah depicts two indigenous 14 year-old kids living in a remote Aboriginal community who, despite tragedy and hardship, fall in love. Based on director Warwick Thornton’s personal experience of growing up in an Aboriginal community, Samson & Delilah exemplifies a very ‘real’ Australian story.
When it comes to films featuring those of Aboriginal descent, there have been a few throughout the years such as Nicolas Roeg’s 1971 classic “Walkabout” or films such as Ivan Sen’s 2002 film “Beneath Clouds”, Phillip Noyce’s “Rabbit-Proof Fence” or even Michelle Hogan’s 2006 documentary “Kanyini”.
But the truth is that a lot of films about the Aboriginal community are not made, nor are many of them well-known worldwide.
The subject matter is either confronted or at least acknowledged in Australia because the fact that racial discrimination against the Aboriginal community still exists.
But once in a while, there are films that come out of nowhere, that take on the issues that affect the Aboriginal community and this is the case of “Samson & Delilah”. A low-budget independent film from filmmaker Warwick Thornton (“The Turning”, “The Sapphires”) that has received attention for its story, for the performance of its young teen actors Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson and also winning a Camera d’Or at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
The film is currently available on DVD courtesy of Indiepix.
“Samson & Delilah” is a film that revolves around two 14-year-olds who live in an Aboriginal community in the Central Australian desert.
Samson (portrayed by Rowan McNamara) is a teenager that is addicted to sniffing petrol or magic markers and lives in a run-down shelter with his brother who has a band and keeps playing reggae music. Rowan who often loves listening to Country or rock music from the radio can’t stand his brother’s music and it drives him up the wall because the band plays next to his bedroom. But he’s seen as a troublemaker in the community. He also doesn’t talk but once in awhile is seen laughing.
Delilah (portrayed by Marissa Gibson) lives with her sick grandmother and both paint for a living. While Delilah does speak English, she is often seen taking care of her grandmother and listening to Spanish music inside a truck.
Both are poor and Samson is often without food, while Delilah gives her food from the local convenience store, despite throwing rocks at her. But the truth is that Samson likes Delilah and her grandmother tries to encourage her to go for him, despite not having any interest in him.
Meanwhile, Samson has had enough of his brother and the band’s reggae music, that he tries to move in with Delilah which she disapproves of, but the fact that he has killed a kangaroo and fed the family is a positive gesture.
But life changes for both teenagers as Delilah’s grandmother passes away the morning after and cuts off her long hair with a knife. Other elders from the village blame her for not doing enough to take care of her grandmother and beat her with a stick.
Meanwhile, Samson who sees Delilah in pain, goes back home and tired of his brother and his band playing the same reggae music over and over has had enough. He takes a stick and tries to attack his brother with it. But in retaliation, his brother gets a stick and beats Samson badly with it.
When he runs away to Delilah’s, he finds her beaten and he knows the older women are responsible that he goes on a rampage and starts destroying property in the community.
Sad about what has happened to Delilah, Samson steals a car and drives her (while she is unconscious) out of the Aboriginal community and the two stay in Alice Springs.
With nowhere to stay, both end up staying under a bridge and live as homeless, alongside a homeless man named Gonzo (portrayed by Scott Thornton).
While Delilah tries to make extra money by painting but no one is interested in purchasing her paintings. Meanwhile, Samson’s addiction to petrol continues to get worse.
As they try to live normally, while in a supermarket, they are followed. While in front of the public, they are stared at. The only person that is willing to talk to them is Gonzo.
But as the two realize that while as outsiders in their own community, they are moreso amongst the White people who look down at them.
But what will happen to both Samson and Delilah as they try to live their lives outside of their community?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Samson & Delilah” is presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio and Dolby Digital stereo. The film shows Warwick Thornton’s strength as a cinematographer as closeups are well-done. I didn’t notice any excessive compression artifacts during my viewing of the film and what little dialogue is featured and music presented, were clear and understandable.
The film is in English but also presented in the language of the Aboriginal people with English subtitles.
“Samson & Delilah” comes with the following special features:
- Short Film “The Things They Said” By Survival – (2:23) An early short film by Warwick Thornton.
- Director – Warwick Thornton – (9:38) Director Warwick Thornton talks about how the film became a reality, the cast and more.
- Producer – Kath Shelper – (6:40) Kath Shelton discusses her duties as producer and working with Warwick, Rown and Marissa.
- Samson – Rowan McNamara – (2:35) Rowan talks about his character Samson.
- Delilah – Marissa Gibson – (1:51) Marissa talks about working on the film.
- Behind the Scenes – (16:08) Warwick Thornton working with the actors during filming and behind-the-scenes of shooting different scenes.
- Theatrical Trailer – (2:03) The theatrical trailer for “Samson and Delilah”.
As I watch “Samson & Delilah”, I can’t help but feel respect towards filmmaker Warwick Thornton. For taking on something that others may consider as taboo or something that people knows that happens in Australian society but confronting those issues in his film and perhaps realize that racial insensitivity really does hurt people.
But what I enjoyed about this film is that the Warwick Thornton stuck to his guns. With a low-budget, knowing he had to utilize unknown talent and focus on using the majority of the production budget to film via 35 mm.
But it’s the patience that he had with working with Aboriginal teens, Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson and having the patience and the trust in them to be his main talents and getting the best of them on camera.
What’s interesting about the film is that both characters, Samson & Delilah do not speak to each other throughout the film. We see Delilah speaking in English to her grandmother and others but most often the communication by both teenagers are by facial expressions and hand movements.
Both teenagers are seen happy earlier in the film, may it be Samson goofing around and giving off a cheeky laugh or Delilah often in conversation with her grandmother or just chilling while listening to an audio cassette to relax, it’s the unfortunate reality when both leave their community and realize that there is not much out there for them among the Australian people.
And the shocking thing about the whole situation is that while Delilah is the smarter of the two, unfortunately bad things happen to her and most of the time, Samson is too high to even notice that she is missing until it’s too late.
While the film spotlights on the problems that exist for these two Aboriginal teens, it’s important to note that I don’t live in Australia, nor do I know if what is depicted on the film happens often in Australia but here in the U.S. we know racial profiling does happen. People who are judged to be thugs or are poor may be treated badly by store owners and it’s something we read often in the U.S. and unfortunately, as we have seen in the news with successful Black entertainers or normal people who are judged by their skin color despite having the money to purchase an item.
And as Delilah tries to make money by selling her art to anyone who will at least give her a try, no difference in America as I see people who come up to me to ask if i can buy food they made for money. But I think the biggest difference is seeing the faces of people when Delilah does approach them, they look at her like a parasite and the waitresses want her out of the dining areas. Would people who were white that tried to peddle art to those eating outside a restaurant will be looked at with disdain? Or was Delilah treated differently because she was Aboriginal?
But there is much more to this story as well. About two teenagers who depend on each other because they have nothing. Nowhere to call home. Nowhere to live. Nowhere to work. They are not accepted by their own people, while the others in Australia want nothing to do with them.
And to see how Warwick Thornton is able to create an enlightening journey between both individuals, the efficacy of the film is because Warwick Thornton was able to believe in his two cast members, to work with his cast members and knowing that both his leads have no experience but also they needed his direction. Both Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson have no formal acting training but they made their characters seem believable. Also, thanks to Warwick Thornton’s belief in his actors, his crew and his story and deciding to shoot in 35mm over digital, made a big difference.
As for the DVD, “Samson & Delilah” is a film that looks and sound good on DVD and there are several special features with interviews with the filmmaker, producer and the film’s two leads plus a behind-the-scenes making of the film plus Warwick Thornton’s short film, “The Things They Said”.
Overall, “Samson & Delilah” is a film about two individuals from the Aboriginal community who try to survive among the Australian people, but learn quickly that their troubles in the community are even worse outside it. The film will no doubt strike a chord to viewers from other countries as racism, poverty and addiction can exist anywhere. But it’s how one deals with these obstacles, no matter how cruel life may seem.
Warwick Thornton’s “Samson & Delilah” is recommended!
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