Justin Kurzel’s ‘Nitram’ wins $100,000 CinefestOZ film prize


Justin Kurzel’s Nitram has added another award to its festival run, crowned the winner of the $100,000 CinefestOZ film prize on Saturday evening.

The story about the lead-up to one of the darkest events in Australian history beat out Leah Purcell’s The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson, anthology feature drama Here Out West, and Jennifer Peedom’s River for the honour, which was announced at the Closing Night Gala at Orana Cinema in Busselton.

It comes after star Caleb Landry Jones won best performance by an actor at the Cannes Film Festival in July, where Nitram became the first Australian film to premiere in competition in a decade.

Scripted by Kurzel’s frequent collaborator Shaun Grant, the film also features Judy Davis, Essie Davis, and Anthony LaPaglia.

CinefestOZ jury chair Nadia Tass, who has supported the festival virtually from Melbourne, said the compelling thriller was found to have presented a unique perspective of this story, with “great use of cinematic language” and “depth of detail, particularly in performance and many layers of nuance”.

“We explored many different film categories to judge – originality, the power of the story, the pacing, the structure, the memorable characters, the quality of the acting, the cinematography and how it is aligned with the narrative, and the ability of the filmmaker to create a strong and cohesive experience in the cinema,” she said.

“On the basis of excellence in cinema, we are awarding Nitram the Film Prize for CinefestOZ in 2021.”

Nitram producers Virginia Whitwell and Nick Batzias said they felt honured to receive the prize.

“In partnership with Justin Kurzel and Shaun Grant, we look forward to using the prize money to propel new Australian stories and support emerging and established local filmmakers,” they said.

Judi Levine, Julia Redwood, Isla Fisher, and Zak Hilditch. (Image: CinefestOZ)

Director Justin Kurzel also extended his thanks to the Jury.

“I feel extremely honoured that Nitram was selected and awarded the CinefestOZ Film Prize,” he said.

“Thank you to the Jury and I so wish I was able to attend.

“The film happened because a group of very dedicated and loyal crew and cast came together and believed in the project.

“A big thanks to the incredible producers Nick and Virginia who are just the most amazing people and if it was not for them we would not have been able to make Shaun’s extraordinary script.”

The other jury members – Isla Fisher, Zak Hilditch, Judi Levine, and Julia Redwood – were all in attendance at Gala Night, where Fisher was named the CinefestOZ 2021 Screen Legend for her outstanding contribution to the film industry.

Chair of CinefestOZ Helen Shervington said she was proud of the team and jury members for adapting to the ever-changing circumstances surrounding this year’s event.

“This year’s jury has brought their professionalism, dedication, and expertise to finalising a winner in what was a very competitive year for our finalists,” she said.

“Congratulations to all of our Film Prize filmmakers for their contribution to a fantastic CinefestOZ.”

The five-day festival program concluded on Sunday, having featured 17 world premieres, four Australian premieres, and 34 WA premieres at more than 35 venues throughout the south west region.