Inside Screen Worlds: Warwick Thornton

Warwick Thornton with Mother Courage. Photographer: Mark Gambino

Warwick Thornton with ‘Mother Courage’. Photographer: Mark Gambino

“You can almost smell the paint!” exclaimed one recent visitor to Warwick Thornton’s wonderful artwork Mother Courage, currently residing in Gallery 2. That’s no surprise of course as the immersive film installation, contained in a battered campervan, features the real empty paint jars and brushes used in the piece.

The artwork explores the themes of cultural displacement and the tensions between contemporary and traditional lifestyle. It also illustrates the very human bonds between family members and has been captivating ACMI visitors of all ages.

Inside Mother Courage. Photographer: Mark Gambino

Inside ‘Mother Courage’. Photographer: Mark Gambino

Indigenous artist and filmmaker Thornton is currently represented in no less than three areas at ACMI. He is perhaps best known for his debut feature film Samson and Delilah which won the prestigious Camera d’Or at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

We can find Warwick, along with Rachel Perkins, Ivan Sen, Darlene Johnson, and Beck Cole (his wife), explaining their passion and motivation for making films in the Blak Wave booth inside Screen Worlds.

“Cinema is a very new thing. We can use it to create a new ‘Dreaming’, and turn our oral history into celluloid to keep our culture alive” says Warwick, who continues “Culture needs to move, it can’t be chiseled into rock” and that he made Samson and Delilah “to show how resilient and strong Aboriginal children are.”

ACMI Visitor watching Warwick Thornton at Screen Worlds

ACMI Visitor watching Warwick Thornton’s interview in Screen Worlds’ Blak Wave

Samson and Delilah is available to view for free in the Australian Mediatheque at ACMI, along with many of Thornton’s previous short films as part of Mother Courage: the back-story. Included are Payback (1996), Mimi (2002), Rosalie’s Journey (2003), Nana (2007), and my favourite, Green Bush (2005) set in an outback Aboriginal radio station and based on Warwick’s real-life experience as a teenage DJ. Green Bush also provides some of the soundtrack music and voices for the Mother Courage artwork.

An acclaimed cinematographer, Thornton’s most recent work in that field was on the worldwide smash hit The Sapphires (2012). Warwick’s one main piece of advice about creative work is to “Surround yourself with people you love”.

– Mike Childs, Visitor Services Officer, ACMI

Mother Courage is parked in Gallery 2 until Sunday 23 June.

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