Abstract: Set in a remote community in the Central desert and in Alice Springs, Warwick Thornton’s multi-award-winning feature film Samson and Delilah focuses on the love story and hardships of two Aboriginal teenagers. This essay demonstrates that the film’s phenomenal success on its home soil and abroad stems both from its specific emphasis on Aboriginal characters and lives and from its universality, and, notably, from its poignant portrayal of unconditional love between the main characters. The essay examines the reception of the film at the Saint-Tropez Cinéma des Antipodes Festival, and, more broadly, in France. It also focuses on the cinematographic choices that allow the film “to grab the audience’s heart”. Drawing on participant observation, audience study and film analysis, as well as philosophy and Aboriginal epistemologies, this essay foregrounds the notions and interconnected roles of beauty, emotions, and ethics as critical to rethink the efficacy and power of works of art. Bergson’s reflection on universality, in particular, helps illuminate how the film was able to work through empathy and hope to reach different audiences.

Keywords: Aboriginal cinema, hope, structural inequalities.

Copyright © Estelle Castro 2013. This text may be archived and redistributed both in electronic form and in hard copy, provided that the author and journal are properly cited and no fee is charged.