New Zealand PM distances herself from film on Christchurch mosque shootings

'They Are Us’ highlights the weeks after the tragic Christchurch mosque shootings on March 15, 2019. Source: The Conversation/ AP

AUCKLAND: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has distanced herself from a new film about the Christchurch mosque shootings.

The Muslim Association of Canterbury has also questioned the timing of the film and whether it is “appropriate right now”, saying the attack was still too raw for grieving families and their community.

The movie ‘They Are Us’ highlights the weeks after the tragic Christchurch mosque shootings on March 15, 2019, and the weeks that followed. However, a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s office said Ardern and the government have no involvement with it.

Written and directed by New Zealand’s own Andrew Niccol, the film follows Ardern’s response to the massacre and showcases how Kiwis rallied behind her message of compassion and unity.

Ardern, who will be the main protagonist, will be played by Australian actress Rose Byrne. It will be written and directed by nd New Zealander Andrew Niccol.

The Muslim Association of Canterbury spokesperson Abdigani Ali said there were “still many sensitivities” around the incident.  “Although recognition of our Prime Minister for her response to attacks is well deserved, we question the timing and whether a movie is appropriate right now?”

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“The terrorist attack is still raw for our community and if we are talking about the response to the attacks then I want to ask if Andrew Niccol and Rose Byrne have read the response of the Royal Commission Inquiry into the attacks?” “Do they know resources of our intelligence agencies had an exclusive focus on a terrorist threat from the Muslim Community?”

The title of the film is taken from Arden’s powerful speech following the devastating attack that led to the deaths of 51 people during Friday prayers. Ardern received worldwide praise for her response to the shootings and New Zealand rallied around the country’s Muslim community, echoing the Government’s response.

The script was developed directly in consultation with several members of the mosques affected by the tragedy but how the events will be depicted remains unknown.

“They Are Us is not so much about the attack but the response to the attack [and] how an unprecedented act of hate was overcome by an outpouring of love and support,” Niccol told Deadline magazine.

“The film addresses our common humanity, which is why I think it will speak to people around the world. It is an example of how we should respond when there’s an attack on our fellow human beings.”

Byrne recently starred in a limited series titled Mrs. America where she portrayed journalist and activist Gloria Steinem. She is also well known for her more comedic roles in Bridesmaids, and Bad Neighbours.

Niccol was nominated for an Oscar for his film ‘Gattaca’. He also wrote and produced Oscar-nominated film ‘The Truman Show’ starring Jim Carrey.