Caleb Landry-Jones in 'Nitram'.

Nitram star Caleb Landry Jones has won best performance by an actor at the Cannes Film Festival.

In the Justin Kurzel-directed film, the American actor (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) portrays the gunman who committed the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania, which killed 35 people and wounded 23 others.

Starring alongside are Judy Davis as his mother, Anthony LaPaglia as his father, and Essie Davis as a woman who befriends him.

Scripted by Kurzel’s frequent collaborator Shaun Grant, the film focuses not on the events of the massacre itself, rather the lead up, in an attempt to understand how and why it occurred.

As well as the Cannes recognition, Jones’ portrayal of the murderer has been hailed by critics in early reviews.

Writing in Deadline, Todd McCarthy says the actor “nails the kind of over-friendly, manically aggressive type people want to avoid.”

“The performance certainly will accrue him fresh admiration and attention.”

Variety’s Jessica Kiang describes Jones’ performance as “devastating”, “skittish”, and “astonishing precisely because it does not invite us to share in the killer’s private thoughts and tortured motivations.”

In international press during the festival, both Kurzel and Grant have described Nitram as an anti-gun film; the Port Arthur massacre having resulted in gun reform in Australia.

However, that a film about Port Arthur exist has proven controversial at home, with many – including a survivor, the Tasmanian Premier and Opposition Leader – criticising it during production.

Nitram was the first Australian feature film to compete in competition in Cannes for a decade, the last being Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty. It is produced by Good Thing Productions’ Nick Batzias and Virginia Whitwell, alongside Kurzel and Grant.

The winner of the Palme d’Or was Julia Ducournau’s Titane. She is only the second female director to win the prize in the history of the festival; the first being Jane Campion for The Piano in 1993.

The top prize – typically announced last – was announced first in the Saturday evening award ceremony by mistake, with jury president Spike Lee having misunderstood a French instruction.

Serving with Lee in the jury were director Mati Diop, singer/songwriter Mylène Farmer, actress/director Maggie Gyllenhaal, writer/director Jessica Hausner, actress/director Mélanie Laurent, writer/director Kleber Mendonça Filho, actor Tahar Rahim, and actor Song Kang-ho.

Nitram will premiere locally at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August, before a theatrical release via Madman Entertainment and streaming bow as a Stan Original.

The full list of award winners:

FEATURE FILMS

Palme d’or

TITANE directed by Julia DUCOURNAU

Grand Prix (ex aequo)

GHAHREMAN (A Hero) directed by Asghar FARHADI

HYTTI N°6 (Compartment N°6) directed by Juho KUOSMANEN

Best Director

Leos CARAX for ANNETTE

Best Screenplay

HAMAGUCHI Ryusuke & TAKAMASA Oe for DRIVE MY CAR

Jury Prize (ex aequo)

MEMORIA directed by Apichatpong WEERASETHAKUL

HA’BERECH(Ahed’s Knee)directed by Nadav LAPID

Best Performance by an Actress

Renate REINSVE in VERDENS VERSTE MENNESKE (The Worst Person in the World) directed by Joachim TRIER

Best Performance by an Actor

Caleb LANDRY JONES in NITRAM directed by Justin KURZEL

SHORT FILMS

Palme d’or
TIAN XIA WU YA (All the Crows in the World) directed by TANG Yi

Special Mention

CÉU DE AGOSTO (August Sky) directed by Jasmin TENUCCI

CAMERA D’OR

MURINA directed by Antoneta ALAMAT KUSIJANOVIĆ unveiled in the frame of LA QUINZAINE DES RÉALISATEURS

HIGHER TECHNICAL COMMISSION(CST)

CST Award for Technical Artistry

Vladislav OPELIANTS (Russia), Chief Director of Photography, PETROV’S FLU by Kirill SEREBRENNIKOV

CST Young Film Technician Award

Armance DURIX, Head Sound Engineer, MI IUBITA, MON AMOUR by Noémie MERLANY

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