The controversial film about the 1996 Port Arthur massacre has been a huge topic of conversation this week, with many people believing it shouldn’t have been made.
On Wednesday’s night’s episode of The Project, Lisa Wilkinson asked Steve Price his opinion about the upcoming film.
“A controversial new film about the 1996 Port Arthur massacre has been widely condemned. It is due for release next year. Survivors have branded it ‘tasteless and inappropriate,’” Lisa stated.
“The film focuses on the gunman who killed 32 people and injured 23 others in what became one of Australia’s worst mass shootings.”
“Steve Price was at the scene after that horrific event unfolded in 1996.
“There are films made about 9/11, World War II and here in Australia about Snowtown. What is different about this one?” Lisa asks.
“Well, Lisa, I think it is probably too soon and too close to home. I mean, the 35 people who were killed there, their relatives today I would think would be having flashbacks,” Price said.
“The 21 people injured by that gunman would be feeling uncomfortable. I saw an interview back with Walter who did it from the ABC, where he was talking about how he lost his wife and his two children and he described how the gunman had left the cafe and was driving back down the road. He saw his wife. He jumped out of the car. He killed her. He then shot one of the daughters. The other was hiding behind a tree. He turned around the side of that tree and gunned her down as well. I stood in front of that tree the day after that happened and I can tell you, and I wasn’t there on the day but I was there the next day, it still haunts me. It was an awful feeling and awful place and it would be an awful movie.”
“Is it fair to protest a film – we don’t know what is in the film. Is it fair to protest a film which has not been made yet?” asked co-host Joel Creasey.
“We all know how it ends and the end is grim and awful. I don’t know what sort of job this filmmaker will make of this movie. I won’t see it. I am sure anyone there on the day will avoid it at all costs. I agree it should not be made,” he said.
“I don’t see the point in making something which was an awful stain on our history.”
Waleed Aly asked him whether the film could be seen as a crucial way to learn lessons from the tragedy, given there was no trial.
“It sounds like an important story to tell. Isn’t this a way to do that?” Waleed Aly asked.
But Price didn’t agree.
“The big lesson we learn is there’s no place in Australian homes for automatic and semiautomatic weapons. We learnt that John Howard took guns off people after that. A lot of people turned weapons in and we’ve not had as may a mass shooting as that ever since. That is the lesson we learnt. What did we learn about the gunman? What we have learnt today is we’re not using his name. That is a good lesson. I don’t though how a movie can be made without using the person it is about and saying their name.”
Earlier this week, a Port Arthur survivor slammed the film.
The movie examining the events leading up to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre will debut in cinemas in 2021 – but has already been met with intense criticism on social media.
Tasmanian author Justin Woolley tweeted his thoughts about the film overnight, explaining that he and his family had survived the brutal massacre which left 35 people dead.
“As a survivor of the Port Arthur massacre I would like to state that this can, and let me be clear, f**k the f**k off,” he wrote, sharing a link to a news article about the film.
“I was 12 years old when that guy tried to shoot me. Our family was amazingly lucky given we all walked away. Not interested in ‘exploring this dark chapter of Australian history’ or the ‘study of a man driven to do’ this.”
In a media release that avoided mentioning either the massacre or killer Martin Bryant by name, streaming service Stan announced that the film, NITRAM (Martin spelled backwards), “looks at the events leading up to one of the darkest chapters in Australian history in an attempt to understand why and how this atrocity occurred”.
The scripted feature comes from director Justin Kurzel and writer Shaun Grant, the acclaimed team behind True History Of The Kelly Gang and Snowtown.
American actor Caleb Landry Jones (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) will play the killer, who went on a gun rampage in and around Tasmania’s Port Arthur historical site in April 1996, leaving 35 people dead and 23 wounded.
Next year marks the 25th anniversary of the attack, which remains the worst massacre in modern Australia committed by a single person.
Judy Davis (The Dressmaker), Essie Davis (True History Of The Kelly Gang) and Anthony LaPaglia (Lantana) have also signed on to appear in the film, which is currently in production in Geelong, Victoria.