The Australian outback has never looked as sweltering as it does in Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country. With the director’s latest, he gives an intimate but brutal tale of racism the grand epic western it deserves.
It’s 1920s Northern Australia, where Indigenous Australians are borderline slaves, treated horrendously by the “whitefellas” with degrading punches of casual racism. The hostility towards the Aboriginals are downright uncomfortable, but necessary in confronting its audience with harsh truths, as well as illuminating a time in history that has long been ignored in film. A cruel war veteran named Harry March (Ewen Leslie) moves into the area and requires the help of Sam (Hamilton Morris) to renovate his property. With his baseless prejudices, Harry returns Sam’s selflessness with vicious insults and attacks to not only him but his family. When Harry threatens to kill Sam, Sam is forced to shoot his attacker in self defence. However, this being a time of aggressive colonialism, he runs away to avoid the risk of being hanged for killing a “whitefella”.