A new film about New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern titled They Are Us is currently in the works and focuses on the PM’s dealing with the 2019 Christchurch attack. However, it’s been heavily criticised for centring the story on a white woman, when it was an attack on the Muslim community.
They Are Us will star Rose Byrne (who will play the Ardern), and will explore how the Labour government responded to the tragic terrorist attack that occurred on March 15, 2019. Andrew Niccol will write and direct the project (known for writing critically acclaimed films Gattaca and The Truman Show).
The project was announced today, and has already been slammed on Twitter for once again making POC the backdrop to a white person’s story, when it’s actually, their story to tell. Many members of the NZ Muslim community are still healing from the Christchurch terrorist attack and are outraged this film was given the green light, prompting the hashtag #TheyAreUsShutDown.
Hey #MuslimTwitter, have you noticed #TheyAreUsShutDown? A film about Christchurch mosque terrorism is in the works. It focuses on centres Jacinda Ardern's leadership and not Islamophobia & NZ government's complicity through ignoring threats to our community. Article linked below
— Hala (@_halansr) June 11, 2021
Notice, not once, did us Kiwi Muslims ask for a movie that glorifies Jacinda, while ignoring the NZ government’s complicity in IGNORING (and thus enabling) the threats against our communities. They are just as responsible for the deaths of 51 innocent people #TheyAreUsShutDown
— Hala (@_halansr) June 11, 2021
“They Are Us is not so much about the attack but the response to the attack.” Yes, the murder of 51 Muslims people is only the backdrop to the story of a how a white woman became a great leader. BIPOC are really just props in this white peoples world. #TheyAreUsShutDown
— Shaneel Lal (They/Them) (@shaneellall) June 10, 2021
You do not get to tell this story.
You do not get to turn this into a White Saviour narrative.
This is not yours.
This pain is still fresh and real.
This is upsetting, obscene and grotesque. I am tired. https://t.co/WqyIbBWQ8p
— Mohamed Hassan (@mohamedwashere) June 10, 2021
#TheyAreUsShutDown The fact that they want to make a movie about this horrific day is disgusting. You're not even focusing on the families, not planning on interviewing them or asking the victims who survived what they went through, NO, you're just focusing on Jacinda. WTAF?!
— Some Person (@_Some__Person) June 11, 2021
While some of the anger and outrage is directed at Jacinda Ardern, she is not actually involved in the movie. In fact, according to NZ Herald she is distancing herself from They Are Us altogether.
Niccol’s script was developed in consultation with several members of the mosques affected by the tragedy, according to Deadline. However, it will be interesting to see how much say they really had in the writing of the script.
“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 said.
“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.”