Warwick Thornton

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Warwick Thornton
Warwick Thornton.png
Born1970 (age 50–51)
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter, cinematographer
Notable work

Warwick Thornton (born 1970) is an Australian film director, screenwriter and cinematographer. His debut feature film Samson and Delilah won the Caméra d'Or at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and the award for Best Film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.[1] He also won the Asia Pacific Screen Award for Best Film in 2017 for Sweet Country.[1]

Early life[edit]

Thornton is a Kaytetye man born and raised in Alice Springs.[2] His mother Freda Glynn co-founded and was the first director of the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) and was the director of Imparja Television for its first 10 years.

At 13, Thornton was sent to school in Australia's only monastic town, New Norcia, Western Australia,[3] although he later declared he became angry with Christianity and did not consider himself religious.[4]

One of his sisters, Erica Glynn, is also a film writer and director.[5][6] He has two brothers: Scott Thornton, an actor who played the role of Gonzo in Samson and Delilah, and Rob Thornton, who is an Indigenous liaison officer in Cairns Base Hospital, Queensland.

Thornton has three children. His son Dylan River is a filmmaker and his youngest daughter Luka May, an aspiring actor, has appeared in a number of her fathers films including Sweet Country, 2017.


He graduated in cinematography from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. Thornton began his career making short films and has achieved success with them at film festivals around the world, including Payback at the Telluride Film Festival and Green Bush and Nana at the Berlin International Film Festival.[7] He describes his decision to become a filmmaker in an interview in 2007:

Where I grew up in Alice I was a DJ for a radio station (CAAMA). The station began a film unit and so I watched people pack cameras and equipment into cars and take off to make films. I was alone at the radio station and I thought that I really wanted to go with them. That’s how it started, I made a film called Green Bush which is basically about that time. Eventually I went to AFTRS in Sydney and got really involved as a Director of Photography. I’ve been in the business for 9 years now.[7]

In 2009 Thornton wrote, directed and shot his first feature film Samson & Delilah, which won awards including the Camera d’Or for best first feature film at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. The following year he filmed the documentary series Art + Soul about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, which was written and narrated by curator Hetti Perkins.[2] The installation Mother Courage (inspired by Bertolt Brecht’s 1939 character) was commissioned by dOCUMENTA and ACMI, and first exhibited in 2012.[2]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Film Nomination/Award Festival
2007 Nana Melbourne Airport Award for Emerging Talent Melbourne International Film Festival[7]
2007 Nana Best Short Film Inside Film Awards (IF Awards)[7]
2008 Nana Best Short Film Berlin International Film Festival[7]
2009 Samson and Delilah Caméra d'Or Cannes Film Festival[8]
2009 Samson and Delilah Feature Film Screenplay (Original) Australian Writers' Guild Award[9]
2009 Samson and Delilah Outstanding Achievement in Film Deadly Awards[10]
2009 Samson and Delilah Best Director, Best Script and Best Music Inside Film Awards[10]
2009 Nana Best Short Film DIrector Inside Film Awards[10]
2009 Samson and Delilah Best Film Asia Pacific Screen Awards[1]
2009 Samson and Delilah Best Director and Best Original Screenplay AFI Awards[10]
2009 Samson and Delilah Best Music Dinosaur Design IF Award[10]
2009 Samson and Delilah Award for Best Direction National Film and Sound Archive IF Award[10]
2009 Northern Territorian of the Year[11]
2017 Sweet Country Best Film Asia Pacific Screen Awards[10]
2017 Sweet Country Platform Prize Toronto International Film Festival[12]


As director[edit]

  • From Sand to Celluloid – Payback (1996 Blackfella Films, short film, also writer)
  • Willigan’s Fitzroy (2000, documentary, also writer)
  • Mimi (2002 Blackfella Films, short film, also director, starring Aaron Pedersen and Sophie Lee)
  • Green Bush (2005, short film, also writer, starring David Page)
  • The Old Man and the Inland Sea (2005, documentary, also writer)
  • Burning Daylight (2007, documentary)
  • Dark Science (2007, documentary, co-director)
  • Nana (2007, short film)
  • Samson and Delilah (2009)
  • Art + Soul (2010)
  • The Darkside (2013)
  • Words With Gods (2014)
  • We Don't Need a Map (2017) - documentary
  • Sweet Country (2017)
  • Mystery Road (TV series) Series 2. (2020)
  • The Beach (2020) - TV documentary series about himself in isolation on a beach on the remote Dampier Peninsula[13]

As cinematographer[edit]

  • Marn Grook: An Aboriginal Perspective on Australian Rules Football (1997, documentary)
  • Radiance (1998, feature film, directed by Rachel Perkins)
  • Buried Country (2000, documentary, directed by Andy Nehl, based on the book by Clinton Walker)
  • Ngangkari Way (2001, documentary, directed by Erica Glynn)
  • Flat (2001, short film, directed by Beck Cole)
  • Mimi (2001, short film, directed by Warwick Thornton)
  • Kurtal: Snake Spirit (2002, documentary, co-cinematographer)
  • Queen of Hearts (2003, directed by Danielle MacLean)
  • Wirriya: Small Boy (2004, documentary, co-cinematographer, directed by Beck Cole)
  • Five Seasons (2005, documentary, directed by Steven McGregor)
  • The Lore of Love (2005, documentary, directed by Beck Cole)
  • My Brother Vinnie (2006, documentary, directed by Steven McGregor)
  • Plains Empty (2006, short film, directed by Beck Cole)
  • Green Bush (2006, short film, directed by Warwick Thornton)
  • First Australians (2006, television series, directed by Beck Cole & Rachel Perkins)
  • Samson & Delilah ( 2009, Feature Film, directed by Warwick Thornton)
  • Here I Am ( 2011, Feature Film, directed by Beck Cole)
  • The Sapphires (2012, Feature Film, directed by Wayne Blair)
  • Sweet Country (2017, directed by Warwick Thornton)


  1. ^ a b c https://www.asiapacificscreenawards.com/apsa-nominees-winners?nomination-winner-name=nominee&apsa-year-name=2017
  2. ^ a b c "Warwick Thornton: Mother Courage Education Resource" (PDF). ACMI Learning Resources. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 July 2018. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  3. ^ Dow, Steve (27 April 2009). "Salvation in Cinema". Stevedow.com.au. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  4. ^ Smith, M. "Thornton nails his latest work", The Koori Mail, 21 September 2011, p. 84.
  5. ^ "Erica Glynn". Deadly Vibe (78). September 2003. Archived from the original on 5 August 2008.
  6. ^ Erica Glynn at Australian Screen
  7. ^ a b c d e "Emerging Talent program - Profiles - Warwick Thornton". Melbourne Airport. Archived from the original on 5 January 2009.
  8. ^ "Aboriginal director honoured at Cannes". Australia: ABC News. 25 May 2009. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  9. ^ "Australian Performance Writing Shines at the 2009 AWGIEs". Australian Writers' Guild. 31 August 2009. Archived from the original on 11 November 2009.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "The 2009 Deadlys". Vibe Australia. Archived from the original on 11 February 2011.
  11. ^ Darwin (21 January 2010). "Filmmaker fears Southern Cross becoming a swastika". The Age. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  12. ^ "Announcing the TIFF '17 Award Winners". TIFF. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  13. ^ Russell, Stephen A. (18 May 2020). "On the beach at the end of the world with Warwick Thornton and his unruly chooks". SBS Movies. Retrieved 28 May 2020.

External links[edit]