Ardern distances herself from film about Chch mosque shootings

Emmy nominated actress Rose Byrne (left) is set to play Jacinda Ardern. Photos: Getty Images
Emmy nominated actress Rose Byrne (left) is set to play Jacinda Ardern. Photos: Getty Images
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is distancing herself from a new film about the Christchurch mosque shootings, saying her office has no involvement in the project.

The movie, They Are Us, highlights the weeks after the tragic Christchurch mosque shootings on March 15 in 2019, and the weeks that followed.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister's office told The New Zealand Herald that Ardern and the Government had had no involvement with it.

Written and directed by New Zealander Andrew Niccol, the film follows Ardern's response to the massacre and showcases how Kiwis rallied behind her message of compassion and unity - including the Government's response that saw a ban on assault rifles in New Zealand.

Ardern, the main protagonist, will be played by Australian actress Rose Byrne.

The title of the film is taken from Ardern's powerful speech following the devastating attack that led to the deaths of 51 people who were taking part in 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.

Some Muslims object to film

But some New Zealand Muslims say the attack was still too raw for grieving families and their community and question the film's focus.

"This is not an inspiring story," said Mohamed Hassan, a journalist and poet based in Auckland, said in a commentary broadcast on RNZ.

"It is a tragedy, one that must always be centered around the Muslim victims and their families. No one else."

Ali said he recognised the story of the shootings needed to be told, but said it should be done so in an appropriate, authentic and sensitive way.

"There needs to be a lot of work done in New Zealand in terms of hate speech laws, recognising Islamophobia does exist in our society and the institutional prejudice within our government apparatus before a blockbuster film comes out stating that we’ve done a great job here in New Zealand."

'They Are Us'

Exactly what will be portrayed or just how much of the events from that day will be depicted in the film remains unknown.

Production is set to take place in New Zealand and will be produced by Ayman Jamal, Stewart Till, Niccol and Philippa Campbell.

"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.

"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."

Basner said: "We are thrilled to bring to market this inspiring story about the positive impact, even in the darkest of moments, a strong leader can have on their constituents' lives when they work from a place of compassion, love and an unwavering conviction to do what is right."

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.

Kiwi director Niccol was nominated for an Oscar for his film Gattaca, which he wrote and directed. He also wrote and produced Oscar-nominated pic The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey.

The project is currently set to be shopped to international buyers and ​at the upcoming Cannes Virtual Market, with CAA Media Finance selling to domestic and worldwide distributors.




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