Director defends Australia gun massacre film Nitram at Cannes

Published 17 Jul, 2021 10:32am

It has been hotly criticised for being exploitative and would retraumatise survivors and families of the dead.

The director of a controversial movie about the man who carried out Australia’s worst mass shooting defended his movie on Friday and warned that the lessons of the Port Arthur massacre are being forgotten.

Martin Bryant killed 35 people and wounded 23 others in a rampage at a tourist spot in Tasmania in 1996 that so scarred the country that its guns laws were rewritten within days.

Nitram — Bryant’s first name backwards — is one of the most hotly-debated films in the running for the top prize at the Cannes film festival.

The gunman is played by American actor Caleb Landry Jones, who looks shockingly like the killer. But director Justin Kurzel told AFP at Cannes that firearms rules have been relaxed so much since that “there are now more guns in Australia than before Port Arthur”.

Despite 650,000 weapons being taken out of circulation by a gun amnesty after the massacre, the maker of Assassin’s Creed and Snowtown said history could repeat itself.

Kurzel has faced severe criticism at home for making the movie, with fellow director Richard Keddie saying “art does not justify a Martin Bryant movie...

and it is entirely irresponsible.” Others claimed it could not but be exploitative and would retraumatise both survivors and families of the dead.

Originally published in Dawn, July 17th, 2021