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Sweet Country - Rounding up the Usual Suspects
Steve's Livejournal
Sweet Country
SIFF's capsule summary: "Set in the majestic Australian outback, director Warwick Thornton's (Samson and Delilah) slow-burn indigenous Western follows an Aboriginal ranch hand struggling against the bitterly divided frontier society that has forced him to go on the run after a violent act of self-defense." (Australia, 2017, 112 minutes)
SIFF link: Sweet Country

In the Australian outback, white people have taken over the land, except for a few places that they haven't found valuable enough to take from the aboriginal people. Bitter war veteran (which war isn't clear until the end, but it doesn't much matter) Harry March (Ewen Leslie) takes over a cattle ranch, and asks benevolent preacher Fred Smith (Sam Neill) to lend him a "black fella" to help fix fences. He sends Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris) to help with the work, and his wife Lizzie (Natassia Gorey-Furber) and niece help with housework. Rather than show gratitude, Harry is abusive to Sam and his wife; soon Sam sends the niece out of town with the preacher for her own safety. Meanwhile, prosperous neighbor Mick Kennedy (Thomas M Wright) beats his young, clever, mixed-race laborer Philomac (played by twins Tremayne and Trevon Doolan) for no good reason, and Philomec flees onto the preacher's land. Tracking Philomec by marks of dragging chains, he demands that Sam and Lizzie hand over Philomec, leading to a confrontation.

Although the next event is still early in the film, I'm not going to spoil it. Sergeant Fletcher (Bryan Brown) – a prominent figure in the nearest town – joins the story at that point.

9 Excellent The film resembles a lot of classic US Westerns, except for the Australian outback accents, and substitution of Australian aboriginal people as the victims of racism inflicted on both Native Americans and freed-but-unfree ex-slaves in US history.

The story is excellent, the directing is excellent, and the slow pacing builds dramatic tension rather than making the film slow. The acting is excellent in all the major roles, and good in minor roles (though some of the background characters look like filler). There's very little score; the sound (and sometimes silence) of the environment is more prominent that way. The photography is beautiful, except when it's not supposed to be.

Overall, I rate the film excellent.

Languages: English and Arrernte (an indigenous Australian language), with English subtitles (even on some of the English).

Rating: This film has a US rating of "R", for sometimes-bloody violence, and foul lanaguage.

Screening: 10 am, Pacific Place (room 4).
Audience: a large SIFF press screening crowd, well over 100, about 285 seats (estimated capacity).

Snacks: none.

Ads and announcements: no ads at press screenings; SIFF volunteer "R" provided announcements.

Notes to myself:

SIFF statistics: 7 films (all features), no parties.

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