Australian filmmaker wins Camera d'Or
Congratulations are due to Warwick Thornton, whose first feature film Samson And Delilah has been awarded the Camera d'Or prize at Cannes. The award is for a first-film by a first-time film director.
El from elswhere has previously reviewed the film and its Extraordinary premiere in Alice Springs at Sars Lite, and I highly recommend it to those who missed her post.
I am somewhat disgruntled, though, that the media keeps referring to Thornton as an Aboriginal filmmaker. I know, and respect the fact, that Warwick Thornton is a proud Aboriginal man, who is strongly connected to his family and community in Alice. But why aren't Australians, and our media, ready to simply celebrate our writers and filmmakers and artists and musicians (and their achievements) as art makers first and foremost, and then, yes, Australian, and, yes, certainly Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander if they are of that background?
[Yes, there's more! Click on 'Read more' to read the rest of this post!]
Why are the media reports of his win constantly referring to 'Aboriginal filmmaker Warrick Thornton'? Why not 'Australian filmmaker'? Am I too sensitive in presuming an undercurrent of 'wow, he's managed to win it despite being Aboriginal'?
Is Thornton being Aboriginal the story, or is how good a film Samson and Delilah is the story?
Yet Samson and Delilah is constantly referred to as an Aboriginal film. Surely it is that but more, and everything else besides? Thornton himself considers it a love story first and foremost (and at least The Age picks that up in the headline 'Australian love story wins Cannes prize'), and yes its actors, characters, setting and plot drivers are Aboriginal, but surely this is not a only, or purely, an Aboriginal film?
If anything, the jury at Cannes seems to get it, describing it "as the best love film they had seen for many years."
I don't doubt that Thornton being Aboriginal is important to his approach to and success in the film – possibly securing him access to country, actors, community support, and certainly the context for the story – and it is unlikely that non-Indigenous filmmakers would have had the opportunities and entrepoints to make this project a success (though that is debatable, looking at David Vadiveloo's success with the online film/multimedia production UsMob). I have no doubt that being Aboriginal is important to Thornton, and has informed and coloured his practice as a filmmaker.
But perhaps, first and foremost, Thornton is a very fine filmmaker. And he was won a major prize at Cannes.
You can hear Thornton speaking to the ABC's Lisa Millar (links to audio mp3) about his reaction to his film winning the Camera d'Or and, endearingly, how he's ready to come home from the red carpet glitz of Cannes to reality and sit on his veranda in Alice Springs .
Cross-posted at Sarsaparilla Lite.