News of an Australian film being made about the events leading up to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre has sparked a wave of backlash amongst victims and others in the community.
Writer Justin Woolley, who was 12 when he and his family survived the horrific massacre which left 35 dead and 23 others injured, said he was “not interested” in watching the film, ‘Nitram’, that focuses on gunman Martin Bryant.
“As a survivor of the Port Arthur massacre I would like to state that this can, and let me be clear, fuck the fuck off,” he wrote on Twitter on Monday after streaming service Stan announced production had begun in Geelong, Victoria.
“Our family was lucky. We all left together, scarred by the event, of course, but alive. There were many who were not as lucky as we were, the victims, their families,” Woolley said in a statement to HuffPost Australia on Tuesday.
“It is reasonably obvious to understand why myself and other survivors, particularly those who are families of the victims, would be opposed to this film.”
On Monday Stan issued a statement announcing the scripted feature film called ‘Nitram’, which is Martin spelt backwards, would examine “the events leading up to one of the darkest chapters in Australian history in an attempt to understand why and how this atrocity occurred”.
Woolley said he particularly took issue with how the production was described, saying it “immediately raised these alarm bells”.
“We do not need a study of the motivations of the perpetrator of this crime. We know them already,” he said.
“Do we need to remember this event and the impact it had on our small state at the bottom of the world? Yes, I believe we do. But turning it into a piece of moneymaking entertainment? You’ll have to excuse me, and I would have thought any right-minded person, for believing that is tasteless.”
On April 28, 1996, Bryant walked into the Broad Arrow Café at the Port Arthur Historic Site, killing 20 people in one minute and 15 seconds with an assault rifle he purchased through an ad in the newspaper.
He continued his rampage before driving off, and the massacre ended with him setting fire to Seascape, the home where Bryant engaged in an overnight standoff with authorities.
Bryant was charged with 35 counts of murder, amongst other charges, and is serving life in prison without parole.
Nationwide gun law reforms were soon introduced under the leadership of former Prime Minister John Howard, with 700,000 guns removed from the community and destroyed as part of the buyback scheme.
On Monday it was announced American actor Caleb Landry Jones will play the gunman in ‘Nitram’, Australian actor Judy Davis will play his mother and Anthony LaPaglia his father. Essie Davis will portray a wealthy woman who befriends the man.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the film will not name gunman Bryant, instead assigning fictional names and titles. It is understood the movie is being filmed in Victoria rather than Tasmania, as the content could still be too sensitive for the state where the rampage occurred.
Many people on Twitter criticised the film being made, some saying they would boycott it in support of the victims.
‘Today Extra’ host David Campbell said on Tuesday, “I wish this was about the victims’ story more than Martin Bryant’s story.”
Radio presenter Tim Blackwell, who was born in Hobart before living in the US during the massacre, told Campbell and co-host Sylvia Jeffreys, “You don’t have to see it, and I won’t be seeing it.”
“I still get chills,” he said. “My cousin was one of the first people to see Martin Bryant at the hospital when he was arrested and brought in. My uncle taught him as a primary school student. We’ve all got crazy connections to that awful man.”
Some critics on social media suggested that the film’s production plays into the growing trend of making films and TV shows about killers, including ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,’ starring Zac Efron as Ted Bundy, and ‘Dirty John,’ with Eric Bana as John Meehan.
Others hoped the movie wouldn’t “glamourise” the crime or “glorify” Bryant.
However, some supported the film being made, saying it would educate viewers about a significant event in Australian history.
Stan did not immediately respond to HuffPost Australia’s request for comment.
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