6.9/10
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Sweet Country (2017)

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Australian western set on the Northern Territory frontier in the 1920s, where justice itself is put on trial when an aged Aboriginal farmhand shoots a white man in self-defense and goes on the run as a posse gathers to hunt him down.

Director:

Warwick Thornton
22 wins & 28 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Bryan Brown ... Sergeant Fletcher
Luka Magdeline Cole Luka Magdeline Cole ... Olive
Shanika Cole Shanika Cole ... Lucy
Matt Day ... Judge Taylor
Tremayne Doolan Tremayne Doolan ... Philomac
Trevon Doolan Trevon Doolan ... Philomac
Anni Finsterer ... Nell
Natassia Gorey Furber ... Lizzie
Gibson John Gibson John ... Archie
Ewen Leslie ... Harry March
Lachlan J. Modrzynski Lachlan J. Modrzynski ... Constable Campbell
Hamilton Morris ... Sam Kelly
Sam Neill ... Fred Smith
Sotiris Tzelios ... Picture Show Man
Thomas M. Wright ... Mick Kennedy
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Storyline

Australian western set on the Northern Territory frontier in the 1920s, where justice itself is put on trial when an aged Aboriginal farmhand shoots a white man in self-defense and goes on the run as a posse gathers to hunt him down.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A period western where justice itself is put on trial See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence, bloody images and for language throughout | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Australia

Language:

English | Aboriginal

Release Date:

6 April 2018 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mila zemlja See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$8,895, 8 April 2018

Gross USA:

$104,297

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$1,847,693
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

D-Cinema 48kHz 5.1

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Producers Greer Simpkin and David Jowsey, of production house Bunya Productions which produced this picture, said of the film's World and Australian premieres: "We are deeply honored that Sweet Country (2017) has been selected in Official Competition in Venice, and that it will have its Australian premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival in October [2017]" and "to represent Australia on the cinematic world stage with such an important story is both humbling and thrilling. To our stellar cast and crew we thank you; to our inspiring director, we salute you, and to our funding partners who believed in this production from the start, we are sincerely grateful." See more »

Quotes

Fred Smith: We're all equal here. We're all equal in the eyes of the Lord.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Sweet Country: Behind the Scenes (2018) See more »

Soundtracks

(There ll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me)
Written by Thomas A. Dorsey (as T Dorsey)
(© Hill and Range Soundwind Music
Licensed courtesy of BMG AM Pty Ltd)
Performed by Johnny Cash
Courtesy of Columbia Nashville
By arrangement with Sony Music Entertainment Australia Pty Ltd
See more »

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User Reviews

 
a visually stunning outback tale with a message that resonates today
23 January 2018 | by CineMuseFilmsSee all my reviews

Using the Hollywood label 'western' for an Australian outback drama casts an odd cultural shadow over the achievements of Sweet Country (2017). At a Q & A preview in Sydney, director Warwick Thornton told the audience "people think in boxes so we need to call it something". However, 'western' is an awkward box for an Australian tale of such contemporary relevance and cinematic beauty.

Set in 1920s outback Northern Territory, the narrative is deceptively simple. Indigenous farm hand Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris) and his wife are lucky to work for god-fearing landowner Fred Smith (Sam Neill) who believes that all are created equal. Fred allows Sam to help his unstable war-veteran neighbour Harry March (Ewan Leslie) for a few days but it sours quickly and Sam kills Harry in self-defence. The rest of the story tracks the hunt led by Sergeant Fletcher (Bryan Brown) through treacherous country that is home for Sam. Eventually white man's justice must be faced.

This is an outstanding film for many reasons. In terms of visual impact, it is stunning. The cinematography shows a deep love of country with majestic panoramas that dwarf humans. Rich red colour palettes evoke the hot, dry, heartland of an ancient land. The camera tracks seamlessly from wide-screen images to small details like a balletic sand scorpion or a cold hard bullet being loaded into a chamber. Scene after scene, we find symbols of the conflicted relationship between white man and nature; there are no words more jarring than to hear Indigenous people being referred to as "black stock".

In terms of aural impact, silence has never been so beautiful. It takes some time into the film before we notice there is no musical score, and none is needed. As Thornton put it, when you stand in the desert there are no orchestral violins to tell you what to feel. Silence conveys the outback. You hear the rustle of leaves in the wind, the sound of a flowing river, horses' hooves pounding the ground, and most confronting: the sound of a heavy chain being dragged across desert sand, manacled to the black hand of a fleeing Indigenous youth.

The casting is excellent. Bryan Brown and Sam Neill are almost cameo performers in their roles as hard-core outback characters. The emotional centre of the film, however, is Hamilton Morris. He speaks little and emotes even less. His face is a wide, impassive, deeply etched, and painful canvas that speaks of Indigenous people's dispossession and barbaric mistreatment by armed invaders. Views will differ over whether the Johnny Cash cowboy ballad during the credits makes this more or less of an Australian story. This powerful but disturbing film reminds Australians of our history and need to reconcile with the past.


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