Samson & Delilah | A new film by Warwick Thornton | In Cinemas from May 7


Frequently Asked Questions!

Here are some questions we have been frequently asked and very simple answers to each question. If you want more detailed information then please search the internet with your query – you’ll find a lot of information and also references to other resource material that can be accessed in libraries.

If you have any other burning questions, and we mean burning, then go to our Facebook fan page and write your question there, and we will attempt to answer here on an irregular basis.

Where is the community that you filmed in?

We filmed in a deserted community called Jay Creek that is approximately 45 kilometres west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. It hasn’t been an inhabited community for a long time.

Is that really what it’s like in communities?

Everything in the film is based on what Warwick has seen or experienced in his life. Communities are all really different – some are small, some are big, some have more problems than others, some have more services than others, whilst many communities are really amazing places and really well run.

Why does Delilah cut her hair?

In some Aboriginal cultures, particularly in Central Australia, it is part of the grieving/mourning process for those close to someone who passes away to cut their hair off (very roughly) as a sign of respect and to alert others to the loss.

Is that why Samson cuts his hair too?

Samson is distraught that Delilah has gone missing and he assumes that she is dead. (He isn’t strong with his culture but he assumes that he should cut his hair, as that is the right thing to do.) Traditionally it is uncommon for Aboriginal men to cut their hair in respect however to Samson it signifies Delilah’s passing and for Warwick it is a connection to the biblical story of Samson and Delilah.

Who's this?

Two members of The Desert Mulga Band who star in the film.


Why doesn’t Samson talk – is it because he’s too damaged from the petrol sniffing?

Samson has a very bad stutter and he doesn’t like to talk because he’s too shame. Also the petrol sniffing probably isn’t helping his talking abilities.

What are the effects of petrol sniffing and is Samson brain damaged at the end?

You can read about the effects of petrol sniffing on the internet – there’s a lot of information. Essentially it affects everyone differently. We like to think that Samson is not brain damaged and that he will recover. He is affected from sniffing for so long, but also from malnutrition as well. If Delilah can keep on catching those kangaroos and feeding him up he’ll be strong again in no time.

Samson seems like he’s a bit deaf?

A lot of kids in Aboriginal communities have ear infections that go untreated and can cause some deafness. Samson could be slightly deaf in one ear, which is indicated when he’s listening to his radio and the band at night in bed and other small things that you can pick up if you watch very closely. He could just be waxy too!

What are "skin" names?

In Central Australia the "skin" system is a kinship system that exists to show each person's complex relationship to each other. In Samson & Delilah, it is used for the very basic reason to know who you can marry. You can read more about the system here:

Skin kinship system

Nana thinks that Samson would be a good match for Delilah (Napurrula) because he has the right skin name (Japanangka) to be her first choice husband. Also he's pretty cute.

Why does Delilah get hit by the aunties?

Part of the grieving process in some Central Australian Aboriginal cultures is the idea that someone needs to take responsibility for a death. It is usually the person or people who are most responsible for looking after the deceased that get beaten by other relatives as part of the ‘sorry business’ ritual. This is something that Warwick doesn’t agree with and he believes it’s one element of culture that should evolve. The portrayal in the film shows the injustice of the act and hopefully will encourage people to question that.

The film is very affecting - what can we do to help?

Warwick says to practice random acts of kindness.

Hopefully it will remind us all to have a little more empathy for those around us, and more understanding about other people wherever we are in the world (whether it be Brisbane, Broome, Sydney, Geelong or New York).

Little changes that we can all make in our daily lives will have bigger ramifications on the world.

Be interested and informed about the situation here with Aboriginal people and don't leave it all up to the politicians.

Why does the painting get burned?

In some cultures in Central Australia, when a famous artist passes away a painting of theirs is burnt as part of the mourning process. This wasn’t written into the original script, however our assistant producer Peter Bartlett came up with the idea during filming. He manages Mitjili Gibson (Nana) who is his mother-in-law and is a famous artist in real life. Peter offered one of Mitjili’s early paintings to be burnt for the scene, which was very generous. We love the symbolism it represents at that point during the film – one image says so much.

Are Aboriginal artists really exploited like Nana in the film?

Unfortunately there are some people who exploit Aboriginal artists. There is a lot of information about this problem on the internet and they are often referred to as 'carpet-baggers'. It is best to buy Aboriginal art from reputable suppliers to ensure the works have been appropriately acquired. There are many Aboriginal run art centres and organisations that work hard to protect the artists.

Four Corners did a story last year on the situation in Alice Springs:

Art For Art's Sake

How did you find the two lead actors – Rowan and Marissa?

We were very lucky to find them through Peter Bartlett in Alice Springs. As well as being the assistant producer, Peter also handled the casting. He asked around his friends and colleagues in Alice Springs and one person suggested Rowan was the perfect fit for the character description of Samson. Marissa is Peter’s niece – he suggested her early on. We met Marissa and Rowan and then met lots of other potential actors for ‘Samson’ and ‘Delilah’ but came back to the two original kids we met and they did an amazing job.

Do Rowan and Marissa want to keep acting?

We think they both do but they are a bit shy about admitting it. Marissa wants to finish school to year twelve and then see how she feels. She wants to train as a teacher, to teach English in bush community schools. Rowan wants to be a bush mechanic, but he would also love to do more acting if the opportunity came along. They should, they are both very talented.

Were any of the actors or extras professional?

None of the people appearing in the film are professional actors, however Scott Thornton (Gonzo) has done some acting training and appeared in short films before. Mitjili Gibson (Nana) has acted in the short film Nana and also appeared in many documentaries.

Marissa had a small part in the online/multimedia series Us Mob.

Why don’t the characters talk much?

Warwick thinks it’s more realistic for them to not speak too much from his own experience. There is a lot of communication that happens between them – it’s just not necessarily verbal. They use a lot of hand signals, which is a common language in Central Australia to communicate over long distances and traditionally to keep quiet when you entered someone else’s land.

Why did Warwick shoot the film himself? Couldn’t you afford an extra crew person?

Warwick’s background is as a cinematographer and that is his first love. He wanted to shoot the film himself so we could keep the crew small and intimate and so there wasn’t anyone between him and the two actors. He thinks through the camera and directs through the camera – so it’s much easier for him to shoot and direct than it would seem to us mere mortals. It was very tiring for him but he didn’t need to speak to another person to tell them what he wanted, he could just do it himself. He shot the whole film handheld, so he could just instinctively follow the action of the actors rather than have it all planned out so the camera operator knew what was going to happen. It made it much more organic and seamless.

What did you shoot the film on?

We shot it on 35mm Kodak film on a Panavision camera that is specially designed for handheld shooting – The Millennium XL.

Where did you process and finish the film and how did you do post-production?

We did the processing at Atlab (now Deluxe) in Sydney and also did the post-production through Atlab/Efilm. We did a digital intermediate process, which was great for the grading process and also for handling the number of subtitles.

The music in the film is great, are you releasing a soundtrack?

The soundtrack is out through ABC Music and can be purchased in any ABC Shop and some other music retailers, or online here:

ABC Music Shop

The soundtrack has been nominated for an ARIA Award.

Most of the music tracks are pre-existing ones that we licensed for use in the film. Warwick composed other tracks and played the guitar because we ran out of money to pay someone else! (The cost of licensing the existing tracks was rather large.) Warwick’s daughter Rona played the violin on one of the tracks and his son Dylan helped with other bits. Warwick’s other daughter, Luka May, is credited with “background noise”.

Where else in the world is it playing?

There is a list of film festival screenings here on the website.

We have sold the film to many territories in the rest of the world. The UK, France and South Africa will all release the film theatrically. France is the first to set a date: 25th November. It is on general release in New Zealand right now.

Is it possible to buy a DVD of the film?

Yes! But only in the Australian zone region.

You can order the DVD here or it is available in all good retail outlets.

Is there a documentary about the making of the film?

Yes! The film is called Making Samson & Delilah, which is as it sounds – about the making of the film following the journey of Marissa and Rowan. It screened on ABC TV in Australia in November. The film had it's world premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival in July. It screened at the Telluride Film Festival in October, alongside the feature film. It also screened at Wellington in the New Zealand Film Festival.

It was shot and directed by the Logie award winning director Beck Cole, who just happens to be Warwick’s wife, so she got some good inside scoops. The documentary is a very light-hearted and affectionate look at the making of the film.

It is one of the DVD extras on the Samson & Delilah DVD along with four of Warwick's short films.

Oh and one more thing…

The words shame or shamejob are expressions used very frequently in Central Australia. It quite simply means ‘that’s embarrassing’! For example when Beck is described as a ‘Logie award winning director’, Beck replies, "Shamejob!".