‘They Are Us’: Controversial film about Christchurch attacks put on hold

The film's director is “saddened by the pain caused to families of the victims”

They Are Us, A fictional film about the Christchurch mosque shootings starring Rose Byrne, has been put on hold.

They Are Us came under fire from New Zealand’s Muslim community when it became clear that the film’s focus would be on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Its title is pulled from one of the speeches that Ardern, who is to be played by Byrne, made at the time of the 2019 attacks. 51 people were killed in the shootings.

Ardern, who did not consult on the film, has distanced herself from the project. A statement issued via a spokesperson on her behalf said: “The prime minister and the government have no involvement in the film.”

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At a press conference in June, the prime minister said that the Muslim community should be the centre of the movie because she doesn’t consider her response “to be one of the stories that needs to be told”.

Rose Byrne to play Jacinda Ardern (Credit: Alamy)

A script for They Are Us was leaked earlier this month. It emphasised Ardern’s story as the film’s focus, which caused further backlash from victim’s families.

However, the film’s director Andrew Niccol said in a statement acquired by RNZ that the leaked script “was not intended to be the final version.”

He added: “All scenes in the script are placeholders until we have completed further consultation with the [affected] families.”

Meanwhile, an online petition has been set up to shut down the film’s production, which has received over 740,000 signatures to date. The film’s producer Philippa Campbell has resigned as a result of the controversy.

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Now the project has been suspended indefinitely. Niccol said via Stuff that he was “saddened by the pain caused to families of the victims”.

He confirmed that the project was on hold until further consultation with the Muslim community had been carried out. However, he said that he hoped the film would still go ahead.

“Our hope for this film, convinced by producer Ayman Jamal, which will take years to complete, is that it will honour the survivors, and the lives lost,” he said.

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