Arts & Entertainment

Film on 2019 mosque attack stirs controversy in New Zealand

Sydney, Australia, Jun 11 (EFE).- A film project that extols the performance of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during the 2019 mosque attack, which killed 51 people, stirred up a controversy on Friday in the Oceanic country over a lack of sensitivity.

Criticism by survivors of the massacre and Muslim leaders came a day after the film magazine “The Hollywood Reporter” reported that the film, titled “They are us”, will be written and directed by New Zealand Andrew Niccol.

Australian actress Rose Byrne will play Ardern, praised for her messages of compassion and solidarity and her actions to restrict the sale of guns after the attack.

‘They are Us’ – taken from a phrase Ardern used after the attack – focuses not much on the attack but on the response to the attack, according to a statement by Niccol to the American media.

The filmmaker added that it will showcase how an unprecedented act of hate was overcome by an avalanche of love and help.

The film project has been criticized in New Zealand for being over the little time since 2019 and for leaving the Muslim victims and heroes in the backdrop.

Imam Gamal Fouda, who was one of the victims of the attack, stressed that “it is important if the movie is going to reflect the facts and what actually happened, rather than sending confusing messages,” according to Radio New Zealand.

“We would prefer to see a film that centres on the victims of the attacks and their families,” said Islamic Women’s Council spokesperson Anjum Rahman.

One of the harshest criticisms came from writer and activist Guled Mire, who described the film as “insensitive” considering it fed on the “white savior mentality” by focusing on Ardern, according to TVNZ channel.

Ardern received widespread admiration for her outreach to the victims of the 15 March 2019 attack on two mosques in Christchurch city, and for promoting compassion and empathy towards the victims, instead of prioritizing revenge.

Following this attack perpetrated by the Australian Brenton Tarrant with semi-automatic firearms, which was partially broadcast on social media, Ardern also undertook an international crusade against hate messages and reforms in rules for arms possession.

“Although recognition of our prime minister for her response to attacks is well deserved, we question the timing and whether a movie is appropriate right now,” Muslim Association of Canterbury spokesperson Abdigani Ali said.

The prime minister, on her part, has distanced herself from the film project. EFE


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