Justin Kurzel directing film on Martin Bryant

'Nitram' stars Caleb Landry Jones, Judy Davis (Photo: Eva Rinaldi), Essie Davis and Anthony LaPaglia.

Caleb Landry Jones, Judy Davis, Essie Davis and Anthony LaPaglia will star in Justin Kurzel’s Nitram, a feature film for Stan about Martin Bryant, the Port Arthur gunman who murdered 35 people and injured 23 others.

The film sees Kurzel once again working with writer Shaun Grant, with whom he collaborated on True History of the Kelly Gang and debut feature Snowtown, which depicted Adelaide’s Snowtown murders between 1992 and 1999.

Good Thing Productions’ Nick Batzias and Virginia Whitwell are producing, with Madman Entertainment handling theatrical.

Now shooting in Geelong, Stan’s press release announcing Nitram did not reveal what the film was about, mentioning neither Bryant or the 1996 massacre in Tasmania – only stating the project would “study one of the darkest chapters in Australian history.”

However, The Age broke yesterday that Landry Jones (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) will play Bryant, Judy Davis and LaPaglia his parents, and Essie Davis a woman who befriends him. The film will follow the events leading up to, rather than the murders themselves, and has been reported the producers had chosen to shoot in Victoria rather than Tasmania, as they feared the subject matter would be too sensitive for the state.

Indeed, the film has proved divisive, with many people on social media calling for the film not to proceed.

Among the critics is leader of the Tasmanian Labor Party Rebecca White, who wrote on Facebook: “Enough has been said and written about the tragedy at Port Arthur. It should not be dramatised or reduced to entertainment. It is a sensitive and traumatic history and a human tragedy that is still being lived by the Tasmanian community.

“The interests of victims of the Port Arthur shooting, survivors and their families as well as emergency service workers need to remain our highest priority. It is very unclear how their wellbeing will benefit at all from the production of a film.”

Nitram – ‘Martin’ backwards – will premiere at next year’s Melbourne International Film Festival, after receiving funding through the MIFF Premiere Fund.

Stan chief content officer Nick Forward said: “Stan is pleased to again collaborate with Justin Kurzel and Shaun Grant and we have complete faith in the NITRAM team’s creative vision and ability to handle the film’s subject matter with sensitivity and respect.”

Wild Bunch International are handling worldwide sales.