Production halted on controversial Christchurch attack film

Production halted on controversial Christchurch attack film
3 min read
24 July, 2021
Production on the film 'They Are Us' has been halted due to the intense backlash from the New Zealand Muslim community.
Fifty-one Muslim worshippers were killed in the deadly terrorist attack [Getty]

Production on a controversial new film 'They Are Us' - about the 2019 Christchurch mosque terrorist attack, has been put on hold. 

'They Are Us' was set to depict the events of the terrorist attack, which left 51 Muslim worshippers dead, and the subsequent response, but was branded as "distasteful" by the country's Muslim community for its alleged focus on the country's prime minister rather than the victims.

The film's director Andrew Niccol has now said that production would be stopped, until further consultations with the Muslim community can held. 

"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," Niccol said in a statement to press in New Zealand

Niccol also stated that he hoped that in the future, the film's production could still go ahead. 

News that the film's production was being halted was welcomed by many, including activists who had been vocal in their criticism of the planned feature. 

New Zealand writer and activist Guled Mire hailed the decision, describing it as "a testament to the response and the message that New Zealand has sent as a country, as a nation, behind the Muslim community itself – which is something that needs to be applauded".

"Not now, not tomorrow, not ever, period," he added. 

A copy of the script, which was leaked earlier this month, angered many, including the relatives of the victims.

"It's just wrong on so many levels. This has affected many people beyond the scope of directly impacted victims," said Aya Al-Umari, who lost his brother, Hussein, in the attack. 

Voices

The film's director responded to the leaking of the script and the intense backlash that it created.

"I am deeply saddened by the pain caused to the families of the victims, due to the wrongful distribution of our draft script for They Are Us. The script is far from final, and never intended to be shared with the affected members of the Muslim community at such an early stage," he said in a statement. 

Much of the initial anger towards the film was directed not just at the portrayal of events, but also the film’s focus on New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern. 

"We need to be able to honour the stories, the legacies, the victims and the communities that have been impacted by this," said Mire. 

"Centring those perspectives on a white woman and how she chose to respond in just those initial days is not what we need right now, that's not what we need and that's not what the rest of the world needs," added Mire.