On Friday, New Zealand Muslims rejected to a plan for a film about the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings, claiming the assault was still too raw for mourning families and their community.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film “They Are Us” will center on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response to a white supremacist’s assault on two mosques on March 15, 2019.
The title is based on Ardern’s remarks on that particular day. The humanitarian attitude of the 40-year-old leader to the tragedy brought her startled country together and was applauded around the world.
“There are still many sensitivities around the tragic events,” Abdigani Ali, spokesman for the Muslim Association of Canterbury said in a statement.
“Although we applaud our prime minister for her response to terrorist acts, we question the timing and whether a film is appropriate at this time. Our community is still reeling after the terrorist attack.”
Ardern has distanced herself from the initiative, with her office claiming that neither she nor the government are involved.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Australian actress Rose Byrne will play Ardern in the film, which will be written and directed by New Zealander Andrew Niccol.
“They Are Us” was not so much about the attack but the response to it, Niccol was quoted as telling the Hollywood Reporter, which described the film an “inspirational story about the young leader’s response to the tragic events”.
But some Muslims questioned that focus.
“This is not an inspiring story,” said Mohamed Hassan, a journalist and poet based in Auckland, said in a commentary broadcast on Radio New Zealand.
“It is a tragedy, one that must always be centered around the Muslim victims and their families. No one else.”
#TheyAreUsShutDown was trending on Twitter in New Zealand.
Ali acknowledged that the tale of the shootings needed to be told, but that it needed to be done in a way that was proper, real, and compassionate.
“Before a blockbuster film comes out declaring that we’ve done a terrific job here in New Zealand, there needs to be a lot of work done in terms of hate speech laws, recognizing Islamophobia does exist in our culture, and institutional prejudice inside our government apparatus,” he said.