Samson and Delilah (2009 film)

Samson and Delilah is a 2009 Australian drama film directed by Warwick Thornton and starring 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] The film also won the Asia Pacific Screen Award for Best Film in 2009.[5] 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.[6]

Samson and Delilah
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWarwick Thornton
Produced byKath Shelper
Written byWarwick Thornton
StarringRowan McNamara
Marissa Gibson
Music byWarwick Thornton
CinematographyWarwick Thornton
Edited byRoland Gallois
Distributed byMadman Entertainment
Release date
  • 20 February 2009 (2009-02-20) (Adelaide)
  • 7 May 2009 (2009-05-07) (Australia)
Running time
97 minutes


Samson and Delilah are two 14-year-olds who live in an Aboriginal community near Alice Springs. Samson sniffs petrol every morning. He is a mute boy living 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.


  • Rowan McNamara as Samson
  • Marissa Gibson as Delilah
  • Mitjili Napanangka Gibson as Nana
  • Scott Thornton as Gonzo
  • Matthew Gibson as Samson's Brother
  • Steven Brown as Drummer
  • Gregwyn Gibson as Bass Player
  • Noreen Robertson Nampijinpa as Fighting Woman
  • Kenrick Martin as Wheelchair Boy
  • Peter Bartlett as Storekeeper


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." [7] 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.[8][9]

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."[10]


Art Film Fest[11] Best Director Warwick Thornton Won
Asia Pacific Screen Awards[12] Best Film Kath Shelper Won
Australian Film Institute[13] 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[14] Feature Film Warwick Thornton Won
Major Award Warwick Thornton Won
Cannes Film Festival[2] Golden Camera Award Warwick Thornton Won
Dublin International Film Festival[15] Best Film Warwick Thornton Won
Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards[16] 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[17] Best Sound Nominated
Palm Springs International Film Festival[18] John Schlesinger Award – Honorable Mention Warwick Thornton Won

Box office

Samson and Delilah grossed $3,188,931 at the box office in Australia.[19]

See also


  1. Kroenert, Tim (21 April – 4 May 2009). "Australian Story". The Big Issue (327).
  2. "Festival de Cannes: Samson and Delilah". Retrieved 17 May 2009.
  3. "Festival de Cannes: Awards 2009 – En Competition". Archived from the original on 20 June 2009. Retrieved 24 May 2009.
  4. "Australian director Warwick Thornton wins first film prize at Cannes". AFP. 25 May 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  5. "APSA Nominees & Winners". Asia Pacific Screen Awards. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  6. "Samson & Delilah to be considered for Oscar nomination". The Age. 30 September 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  7. "Samson and Delilah (review)". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
  8. "Samson & Delilah (review)". ABC: At the Movies. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  9. "Movie reviews, 2009". ABC: At the Movies. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  10. Mathieson, Craig. "Samson and Delilah (review)". SBS. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  11. "2009 Art Film Festival". Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  12. "Asia Pacific Screen Academy". Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  13. "2009 AFI Awards". Archived from the original on 7 March 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  14. "42nd Annual AWGIE Awards". Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  15. "Jameson Dublin International Film Festival". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  16. "Film Critics Circle of Australia". Archived from the original on 25 March 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  17. "2009 Inside Film Award Winners". Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  18. "PSIFF 2010 Award Winners". Archived from the original on 8 September 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  19. "Film Victoria – Australian Films at the Australian Box Office" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 February 2014.
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