‘Nitram’ director defends controversial film after win at Cannes Film Festival

The film is centred on the man responsible for the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, Australia's worst mass shooting in history

The director of Nitram, a film centred on the man who committed 1996 Port Arthur massacre, has defended the controversial film after winning a major award the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.

Director Justin Kurzel defended his making of the film, saying to AFP, “there are generations who are not aware of Port Arthur.

“I felt a film could do more than an opinion piece or a (political) debate to sound the alarm about gun reform.”

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Nitram has been the subject of controversy with some claiming it as exploitative and had the potential to retraumatise survivors and families. Australian director Richard Keddie penned an op-ed for The Age last year, where he called the making of the film “intentional cruelty”.

Despite the controversy, Kurzel told Sydney Morning Herald last week that “the event itself should be remembered.”

Addressing the quick restrictions on gun sales and ownership that were brought in following the massacre, Kurzel said, “To hear that some of those reforms have been softened and there are more guns in Australia than there were in 1996 made me think about how these events are now being discussed and remembered.”

However, Kurzel said there was “no way” the film could display the shooting itself, which left 35 dead and remains Australia’s biggest mass murder.

“There was just no way I could go there,” Kurzel told AFP.

“I understand why we have had a lot of heat and why some are very distressed about a film being made. But we made it because of the absolute absurdity of a character like this walking into a gun store and being able to buy semi-automatic weapons like fishing rods.”

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Caleb Landry Jones, the film’s lead portraying mass murderer Martin Bryant, took home the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his performance.

“I can’t do this, I am going to throw up,” Landry said upon accepting the award, per The Guardian.

“Thank you to the jury … fuck. Thank you Justin … fuck. I cannot do this. I am so sad that I cannot do this. Thank you so much. Thank you so much!”

A trailer for the film was released earlier this month, with an Australian cinematic release set to be announced soon.

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