Plans for a Hollywood movie focused on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response to the Christchurch mosque terror attacks have sparked frustration and disgust in New Zealand, with accusations that Muslim victims have been marginalized.
The film stars Australian actress Rose Byrne as Ardern, according to the Hollywood reporter, and it’s called They Are Us, a line derived from one of Ardern’s speeches at the time. It will be directed by New Zealand filmmaker Andrew Niccol and produced by FilmNation.
On Friday, some New Zealanders criticized the decision to tell the story of Ardern’s leadership in the context of the mass murder of 51 Muslims by a white supremacist as “exploitative,” “insensitive” and “obscene.”
Ardern distanced himself from the film and issued a statement through a spokesman saying that “the prime minister and the government have no involvement in the film.”
Writer and community advocate Guled Mire said the film’s premise was “completely insensitive.” He said that while the filmmakers may have consulted with some members of the Muslim community, many had no idea the news would get through. “It has hit us all out of nowhere,” he said. “Many of the victims have not even heard of this.”
He said the film’s apparent focus on Ardern overlooked the experience of Muslims who survived the attack. “The reality is that many victims are fighting right now. They’re really still trying to fix things, financially, everything, ”he said. “This took advantage of that vulnerability to make the most of the situation.”
Many of those injured and heartbroken by the attacks face ongoing financial stress, lifelong physical problems and mental trauma, and have called for a better response from the government.
Mire said: “Nobody wants to see the fact that victims, their families and witnesses cannot receive the mental health support they deserve. Nobody wants to talk about the lack of financial compensation for government failures. Not a single official has been responsible for this. “
The Guardian has reached out to production company FilmNation Entertainment and Niccol’s agency for comment.
The Hollywood Reporter said the film “will tell the story of how Ardern joined New Zealand following the terrorist attacks on two mosques in 2019 with a message of compassion and unity, and helped push for the ban on assault rifles.” They also report that the script was “developed in consultation with various members of the affected mosques.”
New Zealand writer Mohamed Hassan criticized those behind the film for turning the attacks into a “narrative of the white savior”. He added: “The pain is still fresh and real. This is disturbing, obscene and grotesque. “
Aya Al-Umari, whose brother Hussein was killed in the attack, said he was insensitive and tweeted the classic Kiwi-ism “Yes, no.” “I don’t think this movie is well received in New Zealand. I guess it’s Hollywood over capitalizing on this, ”he told the Australian Associated Press.
Others expressed their anger on Twitter. Local producer Ahmed Osman said that many survivors and families of the victims were still “living [a] nightmare ”and had not received enough support. The film amounted to “the glorification of the most tragic and traumatic thing that has ever happened to them,” he said. “Since we’re at it, why don’t we [a] film about the failures of the police and the SIS [Security Intelligence Service]. The tracking of innocent Muslims and our community, the constant harassment and racial discrimination that we go through. “
The intended title of the film, They Are Us, is drawn from a quote from Ardern in the immediate aftermath of the attacks: “They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. “
“They Are Us is not so much about the attack but about the response to the attack … how an unprecedented act of hatred was overcome by a great deal of love and support,” Niccol told the Hollywood reporter. “The movie is about our common humanity,” he said.
Ardern’s quote became a widespread solidarity slogan after the attacks. But the line itself has been criticized for “differentiating” New Zealand’s Muslim community and covering up the country’s current problems with racism.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism