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Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

Thursday's Connector of the Day: Warwick Thornton

March 19th, 2010
04:15 PM ET

Australia's Aboriginal community has been routinely marginalized from mainstream Australian culture, but Warwick Thornton’s internationally acclaimed film is bringing their plight to screens worldwide.

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/19/australia.blog.jpg
caption="What would you ask Warwick Thornton?"]

"Samson and Delilah" is a brutally realistic depiction of the plight of two teenagers growing up in central Australia’s indigenous communities.

They fall in love and despite the challenges of poverty, violence, drugs and sexual abuse, they manage to survive.

Thornton, an Aboriginal filmmaker based in Alice Springs, aims to humanize his people through his film and open the eyes of mainstream Australia to their struggle.

"I grew up in Alice Springs and I spent most of my childhood on the streets at night. Everything in that film I have witnessed."

Thornton cast untrained actors in all the lead roles in order to utilize their own firsthand experiences.

"Most 14-year-olds in Alice Springs are walking around with the knowledge of a 90-year-old, from what they've experienced. They're bullet-proof."

The film was produced on a budget of less than $.15 million - a fraction of the average Hollywood budget - but it has gone on to win international acclaim, such as the Caméra d’Or at Cannes in 2009.

Here’s your chance to put your questions to Warwick Thornton.

Do you think his film will help bridge the gap between White Australia and the Aborigines? Has Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology to Aboriginals helped?

Please leave your comments below and remember to tell us where you're writing from.

soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Jurgen R. Brul

    Hello Warwick Thornton and CNN friends,

    I would like an answer from Warwick Thornton to the following questions:
    – What are you doing to bring More Unification between the White Australia Community, the Aborigines Community and the other Communities in Australia and the rest of the world?
    – What can we expect from you in 2010?
    – What do you think about the dolphin killings in Japan according to your colleagues Richard (Ric) O'Barry and Louis (Louie) Psihoyos in the Oscar movie: The Clove?
    – How are you inspiring people all over the world to make our world a Better Healthier and Beautiful Place?

    I am awaiting Warwick Thornton’s replies.

    Jurgen R. Brul
    Hometown: Paramaribo
    Country: Suriname

    March 19, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Reply
  2. W. E. Gutman

    Indigenous peoples in other parts of the world have faced two unendurable choices: slow extinction or assimilation into mainstream white society, which, many consider a form of ethinic suicide. Is there hope for the aboriginal people of Australia, or do you predict that they will be ultimately led to extinction as Native Americans have been in the US?
    W. E. Gutman
    Los Angeles, California, USA

    March 19, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Reply
  3. L. Gravenor

    I have done a lot of research about the Native peoples of North America. Seems like the Aborigines in Australia have had the same problems: oppression, racism, taking children away from their parents in the 1900's all the way up to the 1970's and even beyond. That is where I think the sexual (and physical) abuse started in their communities – being raised by people who are not their parents and being abused by them. Some are on drugs and are alcoholics as a coping mechanism for what they have been through. Unemployment, poverty and suicide rack their communities. I am white and have come to this conclusion: White people should have stayed in Europe.
    L. Gravenor
    Johannesburg, South Africa

    March 19, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Reply
  4. Theresa Noelle Younan Younan Marketing And Management Associates Inc, Int'l Intst'r

    What the aboriginals have to do is gather their information and get some sympathy friends with them if possible and call and write to different departments and different native groups for help from other countries and to human rights departments of the U.N. and just nag nag and nag and keep after the disrespectful rogues running the country until damages are given and some land returned

    March 19, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Reply
  5. Theresa Noelle Younan Younan Marketing And Management Associates Inc, Int'l Intst'r

    Making films about the situation and outcome, etc. is for after you gain ground again.

    March 19, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Reply
  6. John Stember

    Is there an effective cultural restoration effort being made to bring back a way of life and the values to which the indigenous people of Australia can relate ? ... so as to restore some cultural dignity and self esteem ? ... look forward to seeing your film if it makes it to Tahiti ... best J.

    March 19, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Reply
  7. Caroline from Australia

    They are Australia's indigenous people, not aboriginal people...please get it right. In regional areas many of them are treated very poorly and many live in squalor. Many however do not live poorly as it depends how close they live to townships. The ones that live in squalor in the outback surprisingly still have access to petrol (used for sniffing), alcohol and marijuana. This is why their lot cannot be improved.

    They are a dying race, which is extremely sad. There aren't actually too many full-blooded people of their race left. The majority of them have white blood in them nowadays.

    March 19, 2010 at 10:55 pm | Reply
  8. jason

    i grew up in New Zealand with the impression that most Australians are the most racist people on the planet but as i grew i realised how the two cultures just never really understood each other from the start. and why should they, how do you make that happen, You Dont! they have to except each other cause the whites are going no where and the Aborigines are going no where either, so where is there to hide other than to bring out the truth in graphic detail, like new zealands version of once were worriors, before i saw that movie, my eyes and ears were pure ignorance.

    March 19, 2010 at 11:09 pm | Reply
  9. Andrew

    The contrast between Maoris of New Zealand and Aboriginal people of Australia is quite stark. Australians due to their racist policies for centuries (still prevalent with majority) have never given equal opportunity to aborgines. The health, educational facilities are zero. Their uplftment is not even a topic of discussion. For a civilized world, its unimaginable that even in the 21st century,australia condemns its original inhabitants to the life of penury, disease and subjugation. The world must act to save these human beings.

    March 20, 2010 at 12:09 am | Reply
  10. John Muir

    Once again, as has happened throughout history, we have come to only see the very frayed ends of our problem. In search of politically correct means to appease all peoples, we constantly are throwing insincere apologies and condolences at a myriad of different ethnic groups. When will the endless circle stop? Don't get me wrong, Sorry Day was a necessary step towards peace between the Aboriginal and White cultures of Australia, but there has got to be a better way to solve our intercultural problems. The root of our problem is not racism. The root of this problem is personal fear. Fear of ones neighbor. Fear of failure. Fear of the native. Fear of the white man. Until peoples all across the globe can let go of their fear they will never be able to assimilate or coexist peacefully.

    March 20, 2010 at 12:42 am | Reply
  11. JP Spicer-Escalante

    Dear Warwick,

    I've spent the last 8 months in your country, and my 12 year old, U.S.-born son has had the privilege of access to an Australian Public education (year 6, and now year 7). As part of his education, he has seen "Rabbit-Proof Fence" at school, and I saw to it that he saw "Samson and Delilah" with us. We discussed both films in depth, and he is quite cognizant of the flight of original peoples around the world.

    But my son has grown up travelling the world with us. His predominantly Anglo classmates, however, only repeat the "I show my respect for the original inhabitants of this land" as if they were praying the rosary. The Aboriginal peoples of your nation are the 'other' whom they barely recognise. Your people's tremendous history and culture frequently are sadly only footnotes to their existence that are noted when they have to explain to someone how they came to be Australians.

    What can be done to reach those members of your viewing audience who, ultimately, are the future of Australia, your great nation? How can you reach them as a filmmaker if they do not see your film?

    JP Spicer-Escalante
    Melbourne, Australia

    March 20, 2010 at 12:56 am | Reply
  12. Chuck

    Do you feel that the lack of coordination between states and the little help provided by the central government have led to these conditions?

    March 20, 2010 at 1:26 am | Reply
  13. G. Taylor

    After living in Australia for the past two years, I can confidently say that the marginalization of the Aborigines is truly shocking. I love this country, and as a citizen of Australia, it pains me to say it – but the racism of White Australians towards the Aboriginal population on a day-to-day basis was incredibly sad. I was there for "Sorry Day" and it really brought the issue to the forefront and people talked about reconciliation in such a positive way. Cut to three months later and it seemed to fall back to "business as usual". While traveling home from my time in Australia, I actually saw a commercial about sending help to Aboriginal communities in Japan – the same kind of commercial we are used to seeing about Third World/starvation (eg. World Vision).

    I truly hope something positive happens for these people, because after traveling to a few communities in the Northern Territory, I can tell you they are great people and deserve respect.

    March 20, 2010 at 5:19 am | Reply
  14. david mosler

    I am an American who has lived in Australia for 40 years and published books on Australian history and culture. Your report is naive and ill-informed in the extreme and is not untypical for American reporting on Australian issues especially Aboriginal questions. There is not example historically where indigenous peoples have fared well in modern society: true for Native Americans, Hmong in Vietnam and Laos, Aborigines in Australia, tribal peoples in India, etc, etc. Modern society has no place for hunters and gatherers and everywhere the result is excessive alcholism, drug abuse, unemployment, mental illness, etc. etc. There are no exceptions to this pattern. Thus Rudd's apology did nothing and this film will do nothing. Your reporters should do some basic history and anthropolgy otherwise these type of reports are worse than useless and extremely misleading.

    David Mosler
    Visiting Research Fellow
    School of History and Politics
    University of Adelaide

    March 20, 2010 at 7:18 am | Reply
  15. Ken in Sweden

    Similar marginalization is still a problem for the indigenous people in Northern Sweden as well, although I would say perhaps they are better off than some other indigenous people in other parts of the world.

    At some point these situations go beyond immoral and are embarrassing in this era. These situations are called out year after year in UN reports on human rights, but improvements come all to slowly.

    What can be done internationally to bring this legacy of gross injustice from the greedy imperialistic and expansionist eras to an end?

    March 20, 2010 at 7:41 am | Reply
  16. Ana Belloso - Caribbean

    The Australian immigrants, just as their US counterparts are clearly guilty of genocide against the respective native inhabitants and it is essential that compensation be given aborigines victim of such crimes...

    Instead of being cooped up in off-limit reserves, like Palm island off Townsville or left to rot in derelict locations, as a result of wide spread alcoholism, a sense of pride in their ancestry should be restored, as a matter of priority...

    The best way to achieve this would be to grant the aborigines communities large tracts of land in North Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia that would become their property to administer as they see fit with funds provided by the government...

    This would be sovereign territory, a nation within a nation with its own policies, defense being perhaps the exception and even its own its passports...

    Of course, some large land owning corporations would have to be compensated, but Australia is wealthy and can easily afford it...

    This should rekindle the spirit of the aborigines nation and may well help with the quiet desperation often encountered at present, which tends to lead to alcoholism...

    What are your thoughts on this?

    March 20, 2010 at 8:28 am | Reply
  17. ajao

    What do you expect? the white Austrailian have never been nice and welcoming to people that are not white, they claim the land is theirs as the white American claims America is theirs.

    Extermination in slow process is what they are good at.

    March 20, 2010 at 9:34 am | Reply
  18. Z. C. Wang

    Hi, Warwick Thornton,

    Australia is a land of beauty and dreams for people outside the continent. It is great for you to paint us another picture, which has reminded me of another movie "rabait-proof fence". Thank you for giving us this true picture. My questions are why did you choose to shoot this film, what was the biggest problem you have come across during the shooting, what will happen to aboriginal people after the movie being watched, and what can people do to help.
    Well, the Australian aboriginal people are not the only case on earth. We have people around the world that have been oppressed and some of them are still being oppressed and maginalized by the main-stream culture. What do you think we can do to help them?

    March 20, 2010 at 9:57 am | Reply
  19. Ravi Randeniya

    Aboriginal people worldwide experienced their decline through imported decease and systemic purge ever since Anglo European exploration of continents. Sadly, today these people have become amusement in national tourism propaganda again being exploited without ever redressing the injustice meted to them since white man's colonization.

    March 20, 2010 at 10:02 am | Reply
  20. Steve Brown

    Born and bred in Alice Springs I have lived with the issues surrounding Aboriginal people all my life. Reading the commentary on this site it is quite obvious that not much has been learnt over the past century, most of you simply don’t get it! The single contributing factor to so called indigenous peoples plight is Paternalism! Paternalism is the most vile and destructive form that racism takes, it takes away an individual’s right to choose, to guide their own path. Leaving them as despairing victims’ of a world and civilisation that they belong to, as much as anyone else! After all aren't we all in fact indigenous? Are we not all citizens of the same Planet? Hasn’t DNA shown us all to be interrelated, within a few thousand years?
    Paternalism is born of arrogance, a firm smug belief that we are so superior we can in fact afford to feel sorry for, and treat these races differently. What can we do for Aboriginal Australians?? Give them true equality! Get out of their lives, let them make their own decisions, guide their own light. Believe it or not, they are every bit as capable as you, yourselves, think you are! It is not the business of White Australia to preserve Aboriginal Culture! It is their role not yours, if they choose main stream lifestyle that is their right as equal citizens of this planet! They are not Museum pieces or a Species of Animal to be saved ! They are “Equal”, human beings, treat and expect from them, the same as you treat and expect from your own families. Integration is by choice! Separation, deliberate isolation, is apartheid! Wake up Australians! Aboriginal kids want to be Firemen, Pilots Doctors, Policemen, Ect, just like any other kid, get out of their road and let the live!

    March 21, 2010 at 1:04 am | Reply
  21. Terry Jordan.

    Warwick, great movie, sometimes we all need to jump in the fire and you did. Thanks for that. I could imagine how hard it was considering tradional ways in the homelands and to be able to bring a very sensitive part of a real world that has always existed for thousands of years. My question is how could a movie inspire the world to respond to saving the whales from the slaughter of the Japanese government, where I come from the whale migration past the east coast of the Central Coast the land of the Darkijung people whose dreaming is Whale Dreaming, maybe you could think about that idea, what do you reckon Warwick. Yours in Harmony, Terry.

    March 25, 2010 at 11:44 am | Reply


    March 26, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Reply
  23. Luigi Kleinsasser

    I'm an ex-pat Aussie currently living in Mexico.

    I've written a novel about the son of a half-caste Aboriginal whore who takes him on walkabout from Kalgoorlie to Coober Pedy in search of "family" as she believes her own father might have been an Afghan cameleer. There are adventures along the way and the boy eventually gets sent to the army apprentice school in Victoria from where he ends up in language school studying Arabic and because he "looks" Arab, goes undercover in Iraq. On his return to Australia he studies geology and later returns prior to the second U.S. invasion for more undercover work

    Because it's Australian themed and critical of the U.S. I feel an Australian production is in order.

    If you are interested or know of somebody who might consider the work I can send the manuscript.


    August 16, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Reply

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