A survivor of the 1996 Port Arthur massacre has spoken out against the upcoming film NITRAM, which will depict the life of the killer in the lead up to the tragedy.
The film, which is set to make its debut at the Melbourne International Film Festival next year before premiering on Stan, was announced on Monday.
Justin Woolley, who was 12 years old when he was caught up in the massacre, took to Twitter to express his feelings about the upcoming film.
“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.
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.https://t.co/KRlQyFNlSM
— Justin Woolley (@Woollz) November 30, 2020
In a longer statement to PEDESTRIAN.TV, Woolley said he was particularly concerned the film would attempt to humanise the shooter and/or give him the notoriety he so desperately craved.
“This is not, as many people have made it on social media, about censorship,” he said.
“I have no desire to censor the events of 28th of April 1996. While my belief is that in cases of terrorism or mass shooting we should not mention the perpetrators by name, robbing them of the notoriety they so often crave, I am not on some philosophical level opposed to documentary or news coverage of the event.”
However, Woolley continued that “as an author, I know well that in order to create a story about this individual it is necessary to generate sympathy in the audience, at least have them relate to the subject”.
“It is this, in a film portraying the life of Martin Bryant, that I strongly object to,” he said.
The shooting remains the worst massacre in modern Australian history committed by a single person. A total of 35 people were killed and a further 23 injured in the attack. The shooter, who pled guilty, was handed 35 life sentences without parole.
Woolley said he and his family, who were all at Port Arthur that day, were “extraordinarily lucky” to survive.
“When the shooting began we all thought it was some kind of historical reenactment,” Woolley said.
“When we turned to look in the direction of the sound it became clear it was not. From our position some hundred metres up the hill we saw people flooding out of the café, screaming. It was a surreal sight. I have a vivid image of the man who emerged last, a man with long blonde hair, moving slowly.”
His grandfather, realising what was happening first, grabbed both Woolley and his sister to hide in the ruins.
“As we ran, I turned back to see the sight that would repeat in my nightmares for a long time: a woman diving under a tour bus to hide and him, the blonde man crawling underneath after her.”
Woolley said his concerns go far beyond being “more sensitive than most” about the film.
“We do not need a study of the motivations of the perpetrator of this crime,” he said.
“We know them already. He was more than happy to tell police his motivation. At the time, the Port Arthur shooting was the largest peace-time massacre by a single shooter in history. 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 money-making entertainment? You’ll have to excuse me, and I would have thought any right-minded person, for believing that is tasteless.”
Woolley is not alone in speaking out about the film.
Tasmanian Labor Leader Rebecca White said the interests of victims, survivors and their families as well as emergency service workers should be “our highest priority”.
“Enough has been said and written about the tragedy at Port Arthur,” she told P.TV. “It should not be dramatise or reduced to entertainment.”
Tasman Mayor Kelly Spaulding, whose council encompasses Port Arthur, expressed similar concerns, saying the tragedy was “still very raw” for many Tasmanians.
“It is hard enough for everyone when the anniversary comes around let alone when it comes up in the media every once in a while,” Spaulding told P.TV.
“I am very disappointed if this movie sensationalises this tragedy in any way.”
Yesterday, Stan said it had “complete faith” in director Justin Kurzel and writer Shaun Grant‘s creative vision and “ability to handle the film’s subject matter with sensitivity and respect”.
The film is currently being shot in Geelong, Victoria, with the decision not to shoot in Tasmania made out of respect to the community. It stars Caleb Landry Jones, Judy Davis, Essie Davis, and Anthony LaPaglia.
P.TV understands the film will not show the massacre, only the lead up to event. NITRAM will also not name the shooter, choosing only to use “Nitram” – his first name spelled backwards.
The directors and producers for the film were unavailable for comment due to the filming schedule.
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