Sweet Country (MA15+) 14, 16, 17 May

Strong violence, coarse language, mature themes

Australia 2017
Director: Warwick Thornton
Featuring: Bryan Brown, Hamilton Morris, Tremayne & Tremon Doolan, Sam Neill, Natassia Gorey Furber, Ewen Leslie
Running time: 113 minutes
Original review: Peter W Sheehan, Australian Catholic Office for Media
Extracted by: Janez Zagoda

This Australian drama is set in 1929 in the outback of Australia’s Northern Territory, and tells the story of an Aboriginal farmhand who kills a white man in self-defence, and goes on the run. The film is inspired by true events. It takes its title from a description by Sergeant Fletcher; “Some sweet country out there, Cattle Country.”

The film is set like a Western in isolated territory around Alice Springs .There is no church, or courthouse, only a few shops, a hotel, and a main street. An honest and well-meaning preacher, Fred Smith, unlike others around him, believes all people are equal “in the sight of the Lord.” Fred lives with Sam Kelly, his stockman, Kelly’s wife, Lizzie, and Lizzie’s niece. Fred has no Church to preach in, but being Christian in outreach, he lends Sam and Lizzie for two days to an alcoholic, stressed war-veteran, Harry March, who asks for assistance as the station-owner of a neighbouring property.

Harry March rapes Kelly’s wife, and denigrates Kelly. March later confronts Kelly with a rifle, fires into his house, and Kelly shoots March in self-defence. Convinced there will be no justice, Sam and Lizzie run away, and are chased by a group, led by Sergeant Fletcher, who pursues them obsessively. Learning that his wife is now with March’s child, and wanting help for her, Sam eventually gives himself up. A trial is held, Sam is acquitted and told he can go free.

This is a dark film, at times horrifying, making frequent use of tightly edited flashbacks and long-shots, that offer strong, moving comment on injustice, exploitation, and racism in an era of Australian history where white settlers made their fortunes through abuse of indigenous labour, and black people worked for free on land that was stolen from them.

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