A GRAPHIC film depicting the “horror” of the Port Arthur massacre will go ahead despite the filmmaker anticipating death threats and failing to gain support from those affected by the tragedy.
Australian producer Paul Moder said the script for Bryant — the Port Arthur Massacre was in the advanced stages with filming to start later this year.
Mr Moder said he doesn’t have the blessing of victims’ families, survivors or the Port Arthur community, but that he wouldn’t be deterred.
None of the survivors contacted by news.com.au wanted to discuss the film.
Mr Moder said the story centred around gunman Martin Bryant, who killed 35 people and wounded another 23, in a mass shooting at Port Arthur, Tasmania 20 years ago.
Mr Moder said he was haunted by the tragedy and felt it was time “to examine the event in unflinching detail, free from agenda and bias”.
The Melbourne-based filmmaker is in talks with US-based Australian Michael Rymer (Battlestar Galactica TV series, Queen of the Damned) to direct the film.
He wants to cast an actor who is “not afraid to go there on screen and portray Martin with all his ugliness, complexity and yes, his own pain”.
“This would be a challenging role for anyone to play and may not necessarily be great for their career,” Mr Moder told news.com.au.
“The film will be a drama and I will not shy away from depicting the inherent violence and madness of the tragedy in a graphic manner, to do otherwise, to glorify or sanction the violence would not do the film, nor the tragedy justice.
“I do implore those who would be traumatised by seeing a re-enactment, not to view the film if they feel it will not help their healing process.”
Next week will mark the 20th anniversary of the Port Arthur massacre. But time hasn’t erased the horrific memories of the ordeal for the survivors who experienced it. Nor has it closed the holes in the hearts of those who lost loved ones.
Port Arthur massacre survivor John Fidler told news.com.au he was not previously aware of plans to make the film. He said he didn’t want to comment further because his wife Gaye was struggling after recently dredging up the past in a television interview. The couple were in the Broad Arrow cafe when Bryant opened fire. Two of their friends were killed in the massacre.
Walter Mikac, who lost his wife Nanette and two young daughters, Alannah and Madeline, in the tragedy, has long defied the killer and refused to publicly speak his name. Mr Mikac didn’t want to comment on the making of the film.
Mr Moder said he had spoken with some of the survivors and victims’ family members about making the film but had not won the majority’s support.
“I am being warned off by those sympathetic to the desire by many to bury the event in Australia’s collective memory,” he said.
“There is so much anger, frustration and distress 20 years on (and) that says clearly to me, we must look at trying to alleviate this.
“I don’t believe repressing the tragedy will accomplish this.
“I know this is not the belief of all and I will most likely get death threats, be misquoted and taken out of context and ongoing criticism, but I am not afraid.”
He said sensitivities will be taken into account when making the film.
“It is a real event, so the greatest challenge lies in depicting the horrific nature of the crime and eliciting the type of response from audiences we should feel; outrage, disgust and horror,” he said.
“I will try to protect people’s privacy, anonymity and include their viewpoint as best I can.”
According to Mr Moder, he would like the opportunity to meet with more of the victims’ families and members of the Port Arthur community.
“I want to try and reassure them that the film will not trivialise their loss or identity and I’m not afraid to take their flak and condemnation,” he said.
“I plan to visit Tasmania soon and hopefully gain their blessing.”
Mr Moder said he would ideally like to shoot the film in Port Arthur but would use another location, possibly in New South Wales or Victoria, if he didn’t gain support from the community.
“It’s still too raw,” he said.
The Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority told news.com.au that permits needed to be obtained to film in the area.
The Port Arthur massacre remains the biggest mass shooting in Australia’s history.
“Like most unpleasant revisitations of traumatic historic, events …(including) Gallipoli … (Australians) don’t need to see a film like this, but they should,” Mr Moder said.
“It is only through courageous and respectful examination of traumatic events that people can reach an understanding of them and then truly be able to move on.”
Mr Moder said he was prepared for backlash over the film but that wouldn’t stop him from making it.
“We should feel angry, traumatised and confronted,” he said.
“Tasmania and by consequence, all of Australia, lost a great deal of its innocence on that day.
“I will never apologise for my decision to make this film, a filmmaker’s charge is to document life and bring understanding to the world through cinema.”