Film based on Daniel Morcombe murder case is a ‘selfish money grab’, say parents | australian movie

The father of the murdered Queensland schoolboy, Daniel Morcombe, has called on Australians to boycott The Stranger, a film based on the undercover police operation that led to the arrest of Morcombe’s killer, which is due to premiere this month next.

Bruce Morcombe told Perth radio station 6PR on Friday that moviegoers should “save their $20” off a movie ticket and donate it to the foundation set up in his son’s name.

“If you have any conscience, please don’t go watch this movie,” Morcombe said. “It’s a terrible story that glorifies a horrific incident, the murder of our son.”

He said Daniel’s name was treasured and that the media discussion of the film acted as “a trigger for all these messy emotions that you try to suppress day in and day out”.

The Stranger, directed by Thomas M Wright and starring Joel Edgerton and Sean Harris, premiered at Cannes in May and is set to make its Australian debut at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August.

Morcombe is not named in the film, which is based on the long-running undercover police operation that ultimately led Brett Peter Cowan to confess to killing the 13-year-old boy eight years earlier, in 2003.

The film’s production company, See Saw Films, said that out of the “deepest respect” for the Morcombs, it was decided that Daniel’s name would not be mentioned and that he would not describe any details of the murder.

“It tells the story of unknown police professionals who dedicated years of their lives and mental and physical health to solving this case, and others like it,” said See Saw Films.

“When the film was in development, the producers approached the family to let them know about the film. They declined to be involved. It’s a decision we continue to respect.”

On Thursday, Bruce and Denise Morcombe shared a public statement through the Daniel Morcombe Foundation, which provides educational resources targeting child safety, where they described the decision to move forward with the production of The Stranger, after refusing to participate as a “cruel, insensitive and selfish money grabber”.

“His horrifying story ignores the pain of our family and chooses to take advantage of the death of 13-year-old Daniel Morcombe. In a twisted fashion, he also provides oxygen to a sadistic beast by notarizing his evil deeds. Individuals who make money from a heinous crime are parasites,” they said.

The Melbourne International Film Festival, which opens on August 5, said it respects and acknowledges the grief, pain and pain the Morcombe family have expressed over the film. However, they also clarified that the crime is not central to the film, nor depicted in it.

“[The festival] believes that this film, as evidenced by its inclusion at the Cannes Film Festival this year, is a powerful work by a respected Australian director,” the statement read.

“It provides an opportunity to reflect and discuss difficult topics. MIFF is a space, like many film festivals, where all types of cinema, including those we may find dark or difficult, can be responsibly presented to an audience.

A similar controversy erupted in late 2020, after streaming service Stan began advertising Justin Kurzel’s film Nitram, based on the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in which 35 people were killed.

Nitram did not name the perpetrator and focused on the build-up to the shooting, not the massacre itself. The film went on to win 11 categories at the 2021 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards.

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