When Tasmanian Aboriginal elder Jim Everett finished watching Jennifer Kent's The Nightingale on the big screens in Venice he felt an overwhelming sadness.
"You don't enjoy watching the film. I cried at the end ... I was very sad, I couldn't talk to anybody, I just felt so terrible," Everett said. "It is a film with a big impact."
The Nightingale, which looks at Tasmania's colonial history and its brutal attitudes circa 1825, is director Jennifer Kent's second feature film following her horror hit The Babadook. It follows the story of Irish convict Clare and the revenge she exacts against a British lieutenant, where she enlists the help of an Aboriginal tracker - Billy - to assist her journey through Tasmania's wilderness up to Launceston.
Everett, who is a poet, playwright and academic writer, spent two years working on the film with Kent, helping to ensure the accuracy of its Aboriginal content, receiving permission to use the palawa kani language, and assisting with research.
Kent has said that she deliberately consulted extensively to ensure the legitimacy of the film, and to give utmost respect to the Aboriginal people and their culture.
It was filmed in Tasmania, set in places such as Judbury, Kempton, Mt Field, in old colonial farm houses that were scoped for the film's purposes, and in Oatlands, which was actually turned into Launceston for the final scenes of the film.
It has already won awards, including a special jury prize and best young actor for Baykali Ganambarr who plays Billy, at the Venice Film Festival.
But last week, during the film's first Australian viewings, people were walking out of cinemas, criticising the film for being too violent, or including too much rape.
There are at least three separate rape scenes in the film, and other overly violent killing scenes.
Everett said a focus on rape and violence as the main reason for the walk outs was too much of an easy explanation.
"The atrocities against the Aboriginal people and also against the Irish are too much for some white people in Australia to accept and I think that is what forced them to leave," he said.
"They are almost in denial that this could of happened, but it did, and the research that Jennifer Kent put into this film, and the research that I put into it to make sure we were portraying the correct storyline, ensures it is very much the truth of what happened. People may well deny as much as they like but at the end of the day, this is recorded. It is the truth of the atrocities committed during the colonial years."
Of the rape scenes, Everett said that the film showed the true violence and hate that existed within the act.
"It is not about the sexual action, it is focused on the trauma that Clare and Lowanna were subjected.
"Some people have said that the first rape scene said it all, that the rest of the scenes were indulgent. To be quite honest, the film really brings home that rape is a very nasty and violent action, against women in particular."
For Sexual Assault Support Service chief executive Jill Maxwell publicly talking about sexual violence was important, but stressed that it must happen in a careful and considerate manner, to ensure those affected by rape were not further triggered or impacted.
"Sexual violence by its very nature is a hidden problem, even to the point where victims under report ... we as a community are uncomfortable talking about it," she said.
"Something like this film creates a conversation where we can talk about what happens in the community ... but there needs to be warnings prior to the film so people are aware of what they are going to be confronted with."
Everett said it was a harsh film, but one that needed to be made.
"The story is a hard one, and a lot of people, maybe even Aboriginal people, are not going to be too comfortable watching it," he said.
"The main thing for our contemporary Tasmanian community is that people shouldn't take it as a personal thing. This is what happened in our history. We still have problems with certain things with government, but we are not going around killing each other. We now have to work more towards reconciliation of our differences."
- SASS support at 6231 1817.