Filmed in Geelong, this feature has just been named the Best Australian Film of the Year

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Filmed in Geelong, this feature has just been named the Best Australian Film of the Year

Caleb Landry Jones, NITRAM 2021

Justin Kurzel’s 'Nitram' has swept this year’s Australian Academy of Cinema & Television Arts (AACTA) film awards.

Exploring the events leading up to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, Justin Kurzel’s controversial film Nitram has dominated proceedings at the AACTA this year, earning the awards’ eight major film prizes, including best film, direction, original screenplay and editing along with four acting honours for Caleb Landry-Jones, Judy Davis, Anthony LaPaglia and Essie Davis.

Held at the Sydney Opera House on Wednesday,  Nitram took out the AACTA for Best Film, beating films like The Dry, The Furnace, High Ground, Penguin Bloom and Rams, while Justin Kurzel won Best Direction in Film, Shaun Grant was recognised for Best Original Screenplay in Film and Nick Fenton scored Best Editing in Film.

Nitram also swept all four acting prizes in the film fields, with its four key cast members — Cannes Film Festival Best Actor-winner Caleb Landry Jones, plus Aussies Judy Davis, Anthony LaPaglia and Essie Davis — emerging victorious.

Other winners included Ellie and Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt), which was crowned Best Indie Film and Mortal Kombat took home two awards – for Best Production Design in Film and Best Sound in Film. In TV, The Newsreader won the AACTA Award for Best Drama Series and also scored the wins for Best Direction in Drama or Comedy and Best Production Design in Television. The Newsreader‘s William McInnes took home Best Supporting Actor in a Drama, while co-star Anna Torv won Best Lead Actress in a Drama. You can view all the winners from the awards here.

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Directed by Justin, the film centres on the murderer behind Australia’s worst massacre, Martin Bryant (referred to as Nitram in the film), and details the events leading up to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania. Disturbing and uncomfortable, the film dramatises the events before a lone gunman killed 35 people and wounded 22 others at the Port Arthur historic site and Seascape guesthouse in an attempt to understand why and how the atrocity occurred. Nitram avoids showing the massacre itself but even before its release, the film sparked criticisms of romanticising the serial killer, with many calling for the production to be shut down at the time.

From the award-winning team behind the Stan Original Film True History of the Kelly Gang and Snowtown, director Justin Kurzel and writer Shaun Grant, the film was filmed in Geelong, however, rather than Tasmania. It was also in the middle of a pandemic lockdown, an experience that underlined the story’s themes of loneliness and fragmentation for cast and crew.

Nitram premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in July (where Caleb Landry Jones won Best Actor), the first Australian film to do so in a decade, and premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August after receiving funding through the MIFF Premiere Fund. The movie also scored the top prize at the CinefestOZ festival in August.

Nitram is currently streaming on STAN