Samson and Delilah (2009 film)

Samson and Delilah

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Warwick Thornton
Produced by Kath Shelper
Written by Warwick Thornton
Starring Rowan McNamara
Marissa Gibson
Cinematography Warwick Thornton
Edited by Roland Gallois
Distributed by Madman Entertainment
Release dates
  • 20 February 2009 (2009-02-20) (Adelaide)
  • 7 May 2009 (2009-05-07) (Australia)
Running time
97 minutes
Country Australia
Language English

Samson and Delilah is a 2009 Australian film and was directed by Warwick Thornton. It stars Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson, both young first time actors. It was filmed in and around Alice Springs. Described as a "survival love story" by the director, the film depicts two indigenous Australian 14-year-olds living in a remote Aboriginal community who steal a car and escape their difficult lives by going to Alice Springs.[1] The film competed in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival,[2] winning the Caméra d'Or ('Gold Camera Award' for best first feature film) at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.[3][4] Screen Australia announced on 29 September 2009 that the film had been nominated as Australia's official entry in the Academy Awards best foreign language film category.[5]


Samson and Delilah are two 14-year-olds who live in an Aboriginal community near Alice Springs. Samson sniffs petrol every morning. He lives in a run-down shelter with his brother's band playing reggae music, all day, right outside his bedroom. Samson is interested in Delilah, who lives with her grandmother. He throws a rock at her outside the local convenience store. In spite of mocking encouragement from her grandmother Delilah is not interested in him. Samson spends a day following Delilah around. He attempts to move in with Delilah. Delilah's grandmother dies and the old women in the community blame her 'neglect' for her grandmother's death and thrash her with sticks. Samson in a fit of rage beats his brother with a stick to shut him and his band up. His brother beats him up. Samson steals a car and takes Delilah with him to Alice Springs where they live rough under a bridge over the dry bed of the Todd River. Gonzo, a deranged homeless man living there helps them. Samson continues to sniff petrol. At one point, he gets so high from the fumes that he does not notice when Delilah is taken by a group of white teenagers in a car. She is raped and bashed, but she eventually comes back to Samson, who is unconscious with petrol intoxication. She begins sniffing petrol too. Under the same circumstances as her abduction, they are both walking along the street and Delilah is hit by a car. When Samson eventually comes to and realises she has been hit he believes she is dead, and cuts off his hair as a sign of respect. He spends weeks sitting in the same position under the bridge sniffing petrol as a means of getting over Delilah's death. Delilah comes back and rescues Samson, and they are both brought back to their old village. As they arrive one of the community's old women begins to beat Samson with a stick for stealing the community's only car. Delilah decides to take Samson away to a secluded area, as a way of rehabilitating, and getting over his petrol sniffing habit. Eventually Samson stops sniffing petrol, and over time Delilah is able to coax him back to his original state.



Based on 48 reviews, the film holds a 94% Fresh rating on the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 7.8/10. The critical consensus states that "Alternately beautiful and heartrending, Samson and Delilah is terrifically acted and shot, and presents a complex portrait of what it means to be Australian." [6] Samson and Delilah received five stars from both Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton on At The Movies, and was the only film to receive such a rating from the hosts in 2009.[7][8]

Craig Mathieson of SBS awarded the director's debut feature film four stars out of five, commenting that "the picture has an intrinsic sweetness, a genuine belief in the power of an individual’s love, but it is offset by a brutal worldview. "[9]


Award Category Nominee Result
Art Film Fest[10] Best Director Warwick Thornton Won
Asia Pacific Screen Awards[11] Best Film Kath Shelper Won
Australian Film Institute[12] Best Direction Warwick Thornton Won
Best Film Kath Shelper Won
Best Original Screenplay Warwick Thornton Won
Best Cinematography Won
Best Sound Won
Best Editing Roland Gallois Nominated
Best Lead Actor Rowan McNamara Nominated
Best Lead Actress Marissa Gibson Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Mitjili Napanangka Gibson Nominated
Australian Screen Sound Guild Best Sound Design Won
Australian Writers' Guild[13] Feature Film Warwick Thornton Won
Major Award Warwick Thornton Won
Cannes Film Festival[2] Golden Camera Award Warwick Thornton Won
Dublin International Film Festival[14] Best Film Warwick Thornton Won
Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards[15] Best Cinematography Won
Best Director Warwick Thornton Won
Best Film Kath Shelper Won
Best Actress Marissa Gibson Nominated
Best Editing Nominated
Best Screenplay Nominated
IF Awards[16] Best Sound Nominated
Palm Springs International Film Festival[17] John Schlesinger Award – Honorable Mention Warwick Thornton Won

Box office

Samson and Delilah grossed $3,188,931 at the box office in Australia.[18]

See also


  1. Kroenert, Tim (21 April – 4 May 2009). "Australian Story". The Big Issue (327).
  2. 1 2 "Festival de Cannes: Samson and Delilah". Retrieved 17 May 2009.
  3. "Festival de Cannes: Awards 2009 – En Competition". Retrieved 24 May 2009.
  4. "Australian director Warwick Thornton wins first film prize at Cannes". AFP. 25 May 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  5. "Samson & Delilah to be considered for Oscar nomination". The Age. 30 September 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  6. "Samson and Delilah (review)". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
  7. "Samson & Delilah (review)". ABC: At the Movies. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  8. "Movie reviews, 2009". ABC: At the Movies. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  9. Mathieson, Craig. "Samson and Delilah (review)". SBS. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  10. "2009 Art Film Festival". Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  11. "Asia Pacific Screen Academy". Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  12. "2009 AFI Awards". Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  13. "42nd Annual AWGIE Awards". Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  14. "Jameson Dublin International Film Festival". Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  15. "Film Critics Circle of Australia". Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  16. "2009 Inside Film Award Winners". Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  17. "PSIFF 2010 Award Winners". Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  18. Film Victoria – Australian Films at the Australian Box Office
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