Christchurch mosque shootings: They Are Us movie sparks calls for shutdown

Several New Zealanders are joining a public call for the shutdown of the movie about the Christchurch terror attack “They Are Us”.

The hashtag #TheyAreUsShutDown has been trending on Twitter for the last few hours, as more Kiwis join the protest against the movie, which is said to have “blindsided” the Muslim community, still grieving from the terror attack.

The movie producers are accused of “white washing” the story and making a profit from a tragic story that is not theirs to tell, among other criticisms.

The confirmation yesterday that a movie about the Government’s response to the Christchurch mosque attack was in the works was met with anger and disbelief.

According to the announcement, Australian actress Rose Byrne has been cast to play the “inspiring” role of Jacinda Ardern in the movie about the terror attack that led to the murder of 51 people in Christchurch in 2019.

Members of the Muslim community in New Zealand say they are being used as “props” for Hollywood.

The hashtag began trending yesterday, as multiple people joined the protests against the movie across social media.

On the same day Lorde released her much-anticipated new single, there were more people tweeting the #TheyAreUsShutDown hashtag than the ones talking about the Grammy winner’s new song.

Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman added her voice to the protest, deemed the movie “white supremacy”.

Numerous people pointed out that the movie will hinder people’s healing process and re-traumatise those who lived through the attack and are mourning the loss of loved ones, two years on.

In a poignant piece published yesterday, award-winning journalist and poet Mohamed Hassan accused the movie industry of erasing the Muslim community from the narrative, and using them as “props”.

“All of us were grateful for the beauty we witnessed in the days that followed, the empathy and warmth and shared grief we were able to experience as a country. It was a moment that shaped us, gave us a path forward through the darkness. But that process has not ended. We are not healed. We are not ready to move on, and the road is long and difficult,” he wrote.

“There were times when They Are Us felt hollow. A promise made but not kept. A pat on the back for a job not yet done.

“Now, watching this same phrase being used so callously to market and finance a film adaptation makes it hard to think of it as anything more than just another tourism slogan,” Hassan added.

“Even worse, that the film has chosen to focus not on the tragedy and the victims, but instead on the Prime Minister and the rest of the country and their response. It is being sold as a feel-good story, a portrayal of heroism in the face of terror.

“In its essence, it is a story about an act of white supremacy that is centered around white voices, white feelings and white heroism. The irony is nauseating. The lack of self-awareness is profound,” he continued.

“And here we are again, being spoken about but not spoken to. Our intimate and devastating trauma packaged and sold by yet another twinkle-eyed Hollywood producer. Our voices are irrelevant. Our bodies props on a set designed to tell someone else’s fable.”

Thousands sign petition against movie

A petition to shut down a film about the Christchurch mosque attacks has collected more than 9600 signatures overnight.

The National Islamic Youth Association began the petition last night, saying it sidelines the victims and survivors and instead centres on the response of a white woman.

“NIYA holds the position that the development of such a film does not represent the lived experiences of the Christchurch Muslim community, neither of the wider New Zealand Muslim community who have faced the horror and terror that the March 15 attack subjected them to,” the petition states.

It calls on the funders, producers and the New Zealand film industry to boycott the film and urges Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to publicly denounce it.

It accuses the film of being “tokenistic” and states New Zealand screenwriter and producer Andrew Niccol should not be the one to make it.

“It is not appropriate for Niccol, someone who has not experienced racism or Islamaphobia, to lead and profit off a story that is not his to tell,” the petition says.

It says the Muslim community has not been properly consulted and many members knew nothing about it until it was announced.

“Any film that seeks to represent the experiences of such an attack requires the direct and constant consultation of the Muslim community and must be done through an exercise that isn’t represented in a tokenistic manner,” said NIYA co-chair Sondos Qur’aan.

Ardern’s office released a statement yesterday saying that neither she nor the government have any involvement in the film.

– With RNZ

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