Warwick Thornton is one of Australia’s most promising contemporary filmmakers, winning numerous domestic and international awards as a cinematographer, writer and director. A powerful representative voice for indigenous themes, Thornton’s insightful camera reveals stories resilient with spirit.

Thornton comes from the Katej people of central Australia and has lived in nearby Alice Springs all his life, apart from a three-year stint at the Sydney- based Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) where he studied cinematography, graduating in 1997.

Thornton honed his media skills at the Central Australian Media Association of Australia (CAAMA), which encourages members of indigenous communities to be involved in the production of their own film, television and radio. His mother is one of its founders. Between the ages of 16 and 23 he worked there as a DJ, camera trainee, and cameraman of short films and documentaries, attending AFTRS  specifically to study drama.

It was a decision that has paid off, with the selection of his debut feature, Samson and Delilah, into the Un Certain Regard section of the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. But Thornton believes that film education is only a part of the movie equation. 'There’s a certain amount you can learn at the film school – it’s a big toy shop – but you actually have to live a life and be a human being, really, to make films," he says.

His passion has always been to document  the stories of his community – for them and about them, and share them on a big screen. 'There’s no point writing unless you’ve got something to say and a fire burning in you,' he says.

That 'fire’ has fuelled a recent wave of dynamic and inspiring aboriginal stories, developed and supported by government initiatives through the Indigenous branch of Screen Australia (the former Australian Film Commission).
 
Thornton was a product of the first series in 1995/6, From Sand to Celluloid."I’ve seen it all happen and it’s come a long way. There are some incredible writers and directors out there now because of these developments," he says.

Thornton’s impressive short film track record always augured a promising career. His first short, Payback (1996, 6 min), about the indigenous traditional law system, was invited to the prestigious Telluride Film Festival. Short comedy Mimi (2002, 12 mins) is  a clever satire of the indigenous art industry starring Sophie Lee (The Castle). Green Bush (2005, 26 min), is based on Thornton’s personal experience as an  indigenous radio DJ’s attempting to juggle spinning music and negotiating the nightly dramas at a remote community radio station.

Award winning Nana (2007), a story of outback courage, look at family ties through the eyes of a young girl on the edge of adulthood, took out the Crystal Bear award, as the best short at the Berlin Film Festival where each of his shorts has won an award.
The ideas for his highly anticipated debut, Samson and Delilah took about two years to ferment but only one week to write. The tale of outback love and tragedy is set in an isolated community in central Australia’s Simpson Desert. Thornton describes it as 'an unconventional and understated love, borne out of necessity, that develops out of survival with the growth of trust between what society sees as 'two untouchables'."

The Cannes invitation is the culmination of his career. "I’ve been making films for twenty years and this has always been my dream," said Thornton, "but even in my wildest dreams I never thought it would happen. It is SO cool.."
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