Warwick Thornton‘s Samson and Delilah, an Aboriginal love-on-the-run drama as well as Australia’s official submission for ’09’s Best Foreign Film Oscar, won five Australian Film Institute awards last night, including Best Film. Thornton also won for Best Direction, Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography, and costars Marissa Gibson and Rowan McNamara were co-recipients of the AFI’s Young Actor award. On top of which Samson and Delilah has a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

Marissa Gibson, Rowan McNamara in Warwick Thornton’s Samson and Delilah

So why wasn’t I doing cartwheels in the Grand Palais after seeing about 45 minutes worth in Cannes last May? Because Samson and Delilah doesn’t exactly rev its engines with rousing action and story tension during the first act, and because…I forget but I probably had another film to catch or an interview to do or a story to file. There’s always something nipping at your heels during that festival. Maybe I was simply letting the impatient, foot-tapping aspect of my Cannes personality run the show. My judgment isn’t infallible, and fatigue sometimes has a disproportionate influence.

It was obvious from the get-go that Thornton was (a) a serious and talented filmmaker and (b) investing in character and mood before putting his story in forward gear — i.e., before the lovers decide to steal a car and hightail it. Last night’s win, in any event, has persuaded me to watch Samson and Delilah again, jetlag-free. A screener, I’m told, is on its way.