Controversial fact-based Australian drama “Nitram” won the first prize this weekend at the CinefestOz film festival in West Australia. Worth A$100,000 ($73,000) the award is one of the richest in cinema.
The film documents the build-up to a mass murder in Tasmania and its production was opposed by some community groups. But the finished avoids depicting any on-screen violence and instead concentrates on the troubled psychology of the lone perpetrator.
Directed by Justin Kurzel and presented in competition in Cannes in July, “Nitram” won the best acting prize for star Caleb Landry Jones.
Similarly distanced from the actual events, the CinefestOz jury said: “After much deliberation we agree ‘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.” The film also features strong performance from Australian actors Judy Davis, Essie Davis and Anthony LaPaglia.
And, while much of Australia is currently feeling the constrictions of prolonged coronavirus-related lockdowns, CinefestOz took place largely as an in-person event (Aug 25-29, 2021). It was held in southwestern towns Bunbury, Margaret River and Albany with a red-carpet closing event held in Busselton.
Jurors, Isla Fisher, Zak Hilditch, Judi Levine and Julia Redwood attended in person, but jury chair-person Nadia Tass was unable to travel from locked-down Melbourne and joined online instead. “The jury acknowledges the extraordinary challenges that each of the filmmakers has had to overcome to make their films in these unique times,” she said.
The other three Australian films competing for the prize were: “Here Out West,” “River” and “The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson.”
Tourism Minister David Templeman presented the Nitram filmmakers their prize and said that: “The McGowan [West Australia] government is a proud supporter of the West Australian screen industry and is committed to the construction of a screen production facility in Fremantle and of course the A$16 million ($11.7 million) WA Regional Film Fund.”
Earlier in the week, actor and author Isla Fisher who grew up in the state, was recognized at for her outstanding contribution to the film industry and named the CinefestOz 2021 Screen Legend.