Nitram: The controversial Australian film that’s a Palme d’Or contender at Cannes 2021

After a pandemic hiatus in 2020, the Cannes Film Festival has made its return, and a controversial Australian film is among the contenders for the top gong.

The 74th edition of the festival officially opened with a star-studded red carpet on Tuesday.

There are 24 entries showing in the two-week festival’s competition this year, with the Palme d’Or for best picture to be handed out on July 17.

Australia has one entry, director Justin Kurzel’s controversial film Nitram – about the events leading up to the Port Arthur massacre, the 1996 mass shooting in which 35 people were killed and 23 injured.

The Stan Original stars Judy Davis (The Dressmaker), Essie Davis (who was born in Tasmania), Anthony LaPaglia (Lantana) and American actor Caleb Landry Jones as mass murderer Martin Bryant.

The film has been criticised by survivors, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he is unnerved about revisiting the Bryant case.

Bryant is serving a life sentence without parole for the shooting, which prompted gun reform and a firearm buy-back scheme under John Howard’s government.

The feature, Bryant’s first name backwards, was made by Kurzel and writer Shaun Grant, the pair behind True History of the Kelly Gang and Snowtown.

The decision to dramatise Australia’s worst mass murder, and the man who perpetrated it, has been described by critics as likely only to cause hurt by opening old wounds in the name of voyeuristic entertainment.

The events took place in Tasmania, but Nitram was filmed in Geelong, Victoria, an acknowledgement from the moviemakers that it would be too confronting for the Tasmanian community.

Last year, Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said he felt “highly uncomfortable” about the film, but said it wouldn’t be right to censor the movie altogether.

“It is a difficult circumstance for many in our community,” Mr Gutwein said.

“I would hope the filmmakers are being sensitive in the way they shoot this particular production.”

2021 Palme d’Or nominees

Here are the 2021 contenders:

  •  Annette – Leos Carax – opening film – (France)
  • Flag Day – Sean Penn (USA)
  • Tout S’est Bien Passe – Francois Ozon (France)
  • A Hero – Asghar Farhadi (Iran)
  • Tre Piani – Nanni Moretti (Italy)
  •  Titane – Julia Ducournau (France)
  • Hytti Nro 6 (Compartment No. 6) – Juho Kuosmanen (Finland)
  • The French Dispatch – Wes Anderson (USA)
  • La Fracture – Catherine Corsini (France)
  • Lingiu – Mahamat Saleh-Haron (Chad)
  • Memoria – Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand)
  • Nitram – Justin Kurzel (Australia)
  • Par un Demi Clair Matin – Bruno Dumont (France)
  •  Paris, 13th District – Jacques Audiard (France)
  • Petrov’s Flu – Kirill Serebrennikov (Russia)
  • Red Rocket – Sean Baker (USA)
  • The Restless (Les Intranquilles) – Joachim Lafosse (Belgium)
  •  The Story of My Wife – Ildiko Enyedi (Hungary)
  • The Worst Person in the World – Joachim Trier (Norway)
  •  Ahed’s Knee – Nadav Lapid (Israel)
  • Benedetta – Paul Verhoeven (Netherlands)
  • Bergman Island – Mia Hansen-Love (France)
  • Drive My Car – Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Japan)
  • Casablanca Beats – Nabil Ayouch (Morocco)

-with AAP

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