New Zealand’s collective backlash at Christchurch film

AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER

JACINDA Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, has reacted negatively to the plans for a film about the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks, calling them ill-timed.

News has been travelling from Hollywood on the plans for a film that would be based on the mosque shooting, in which a gunman opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, killing 51 people and wounding 40. 

Ardern responded to a question posed to her on  TVNZ’s Breakfast show, saying that she felt that a film on the attacks felt “too soon” and “too raw” for the people of New Zealand. 

“While there are so many stories that should be told at some point, I don’t consider mine to be one of them,” Ardern said. “They’re the community’s stories, they’re the families’ stories.”

Ardern added that while she was not in support of the film being made, it was not her choice to make on its existence, but rather that of those in the entertainment industry. 

The film –They Are Us – is written with the focus on Ardern’s sensitive and empathetic response to the shooting, which was widely praised by global leaders. 

They Are Us is described by Variety as an “inspirational story about the young leader’s response to the tragic events, and the remarkable achievements of her government and citizens who rallied behind her message of compassion and unity to ban assault rifles in New Zealand.”

News reports had announced that Australian actress Rose Byrne had been casted to play the Prime Minister, and that writer Andrew Niccol would be the director. 

However, the film has also gained considerable backlash from families of the Christchurch attack victims, with members of New Zealand’s Muslim community criticising the film for its “white saviour” narrative instead of focusing on the victims and affected families. 

On Twitter, one enraged user Mohamed Hassan wrote that the film’s conception is “upsetting, obscene and grotesque.” 

“You do not get to tell this story. You do not get to turn this into a White Saviour narrative. This is not yours. This pain is still fresh and real. This is upsetting, obscene and grotesque. I am tired,” Hassan said.  

“You literally took a horrific act of White supremacy and turned it into a story about White people’s feelings?? Nah this ain’t it.”

The mayor of Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel, said film crews would not be welcome in her city.

“I’m just so outraged that they even think that this is an appropriate thing to do,” Dalzel told news outlet RNZ.

Adibah Khan, a spokesperson for New Zealand’s National Islamic Youth Association, told The New York Times: “The issue is that the film is about Jacinda Ardern, but it’s not her story to tell.” 

The outcries have led to one of the film’s producers, Phillippa Campbell, resigning from the film, sending an apology to the people of Christchurch for her involvement.

Campbell added that she had not realised how much hurt and pain the film would bring. “I have listened to the concerns raised over recent days and I have heard the strength of people’s views,” she said.

“I now agree that the events of 15 March 2019 are too raw for film at this time and do not wish to be involved with a project that is causing such distress.”

Other film executives nor actress Rose Byrne have made any announcements about stepping away from the project.



 
 

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