Being one of 339 films over being screened over the course of 11 days, Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country has been named the Toronto International Film Festival's (TIFF), Platform winner.
Inspired by true events, Sweet Country is a period western set in 1929 in the Northern Territory. The story follows a journey of personal conviction and settler justice with Thornton's central themes of colonialism, law, and power.
"We as Indigenous filmmakers have an opportunity to speak the truth... we have to get it right."
Speaking at TIFF Thornton said Indigenous history around the world has been written with a led pencil and an eraser.
"As Indigenous filmmakers, we're rebuilding our library at the moment, we're getting our voice back... We're starting to actually talk our truth, an oral history that's been passed down," he said.
"We as Indigenous filmmakers have an opportunity to speak the truth and to have a dialogue, even though it's fiction we have to get it right."
The Festival welcomed an international jury comprised of Chinese film director Chen Kaige, Polish film director, Malgorzata Szumowska, and German filmmaker Wim Wenders; all of whom believe Thornton's film is a spiritual epic.
"It is a great saga of human fate, and its themes of race and struggle for survival are handled in such a simple, rich, unpretentious and touching way, that it became for us a deeply emotional metaphor for our common fight for dignity,” the jury said.
The panel of judges saw 12 different films from all over the world, that ventured into very different universes of the soul and to extremely different places around the planet in contention for the major awards. Exactly half of the films were directed by women.
At a time where Indigenous Australians weren't deemed as equals, Sweet Country delves into the bitter divide of society in 1929. The film focuses on one Aboriginal stockman’s actions of self-defense, which evidently illuminate the white populations racist mentality.
With a stellar cast consisting of Bryan Brown, Sam Neill, Natassia Gorey-Furber and Matt Day, and raw yet powerful visual storytelling, there's little surprise that Sweet Country has received standing ovations across the world and strong nods from film critics and festival goers.
The award comes just days after Thornton scored the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival, making the Kaytej filmmaker steps closer towards potential Oscar glory.
Similar to Thornton's debut feature, Samson and Delilah, which caused a sensation when it won the Camera D'Or in Cannes in 2009, the beauty of Sweet Country is a captured by the harsh but powerful elements of reality, poignant dialogue, enthralling cinematography and his ability to evoke a firm connection to country by utilising the stunning landscapes of Australia's red dusty desert.
Sweet Country will premiere in Australia next month at the Adelaide Film Festival ahead of a planned national release next year.