Martin Bryant biopic Nitram wins $100,000 CinefestOZ film prize as WA premiere screens in Busselton

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Ben O'SheaThe West Australian
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Isla Fisher and jury members Luncheon at Aravina Estate in Perth today.
Camera IconIsla Fisher and jury members Luncheon at Aravina Estate in Perth today. Credit: Backgrid

A jury of industry experts, including Perth-raised Hollywood star Isla Fisher, tonight awarded the richest film prize of its kind in Australia to the nation’s most controversial film — the Martin Bryant biopic, Nitram.

The movie, which won the $100,000 CinefestOZ prize and had its WA premiere at the Busselton-based film festival on Thursday, examines Bryant’s life in the months leading up to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre that claimed the lives of 35 people.

Director Justin Kurzel (Snowtown) elected not to depict the violence, nor use the lone gunman’s real name, opting instead to paint an empathetic portrait of Bryant, who is played brilliantly by American actor Caleb Landry Jones.

Jones won the best actor prize at Cannes when the film screened at the prestigious French festival last month, so it’s perhaps no surprise Kurzel’s confronting film also won the favour of the Cinefest jury, which was chaired by veteran director Nadia Tass, and also featured accomplished filmmakers Zak Hilditch, Julia Redwood and Judi Levine.

“After much deliberation, we agreed Nitram presented a unique perspective of this story, with great use of cinematic language, depth of detail, particularly in performance and many layers of nuance,” Tass said of the decision.

The film, which also features stunning performances by Anthony LaPaglia, Essie Davis and Judy Davis, beat Leah Purcell’s searing colonial thriller The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson, River, a documentary about waterways, and Here Out West, an anthology piece about life in Western Sydney.

Fisher, dressed in Australian label Zimmermann, was also honoured with the CinefestOZ Screen Legend award at last night’s gala event.

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