Acclaimed filmmaker Warwick Thornton (Samson & Delilah) is currently directing Australian frontier drama Sweet Country in the Northern Territory - a 1920s set tale that revolves around an indigenous cattle herder who is tried for murder, told from an Aboriginal perspective.
One half of North Coast hip-hop duo Skank & Shake (currently on set as extras), Hugh Winterflood details the powerful film from location working with the likes of Sam Neill and Bryan Brown:
A member of the main cast of Sweet Country approached us after wrapping for the day. He told us how he'd gotten emotional during his take. Having filmed a scene in a prison cell, he told us that he’d been thinking of his ancestors. As he spoke of his tears which fell during filming, it hit us all how close to home this story is. How authentic it is. Just how important it is to tell, and for us to listen to.
Producer David Tranter, who also created the original screenplay, and his hardworking sons and fellow crew members Josh and Delroy, are direct relations to one of the characters in the story, Philomac. A young boy who witnesses a murder, in the film, Philomac is played by local twins Travon and Tremaine. For a story so brutal to happen so recently makes us wonder just how many more untold and terrible stories make up the terror of Australia.
Acclaimed director and cinematographer Warwick Thornton (Samson & Delilah, The Sapphires) is in his element here. Working with his talented son, Dylan McDonald, I observed Thornton, a humble man dressed in blue jeans and a plain black t-shirt, manning the camera and the cigarette packet. A real get-in-and-get-the-job-done type operator, who called all of us extras 'budda’ – as if he already knew us. His determined eyes told me he knew what he wanted and how he could make it happen. "I've always wanted to shoot a cowboy-western here," he reckons.
Watching the incredibly talented cast and crew of industry professionals and local legends alike was nothing short of amazing. One of my favourite times of the day, mealtimes, saw the whole cast and crew coming together, recharging for another long, hot day in the sun. A big family, sharing a family story. Everyone worked together like a well-oiled machine running on dreams and nicotine, producing an awe-inspiring film full of brutal truths and lessons.
It is one which I am glad to be a part of. To witness Hamilton Morris (8MMM) and his brother Gibson John, Warlpiri men from Yuendumu, a community 300kms North-West of Alice Springs, mix it up with internationally renowned actors like Sam Neill, Bryan Brown and Thomas Wright, was truly something to aspire to. To educate people about the nature and history of their own country – now that is truly powerful.
Sweet Country - a devastating tale of lawlessness and injustice, set in devastatingly beautiful country. A turning point of Australia's history. An eye-opening, heartbreaking story, and one which needs to be told. "We're in the middle of something epic here" – Sam Neill.
Sweet Country is to be produced by David Jowsey (Goldstone, Jasper Jones), Greer Simpkin (Goldstone, The Secret River, The Code) and David Tranter (Nganampa Anwernekenhe) with distribution by Transition Films (Australia).
Skank & Shake support Drapht at Alice Springs' Gap View Hotel this Saturday, Dec 17.