Plans for Rose Byrne movie on New Zealand mosque attacks draw criticism

Rose Byrne is reportedly set to play New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern in film

Ellie Harrison
Friday 11 June 2021 09:20
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says gun laws will change

Tentative plans for a movie about the 2019 New Zealand mosque attacks have drawn widespread criticism.

The film, which would recount the response of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to a gunman's killing of Muslim worshippers, drew criticism in New Zealand on Friday (11 June) for not focusing on the victims of the attacks.

Hollywood news outlet Deadline reported that Australian actor Rose Byrne is set to play Ardern in the movie, titled They Are Us.

The film would be set in the days after the 2019 attacks in which 51 people were killed at two Christchurch mosques.

New Zealander Andrew Niccol is reportedly on board to write and direct the project. His previous screenplays include Gattaca, The Terminal and Oscar-nominated film The Truman Show.

Deadline reported that They Are Us would follow Ardern's response to the attacks and how people rallied behind her message of compassion and unity, and her successful call to ban the deadliest types of semiautomatic weapons.

The film’s title comes from the words Ardern spoke in a landmark address soon after the attacks. At the time, Ardern was praised around the world for her response.

Nevertheless, many in New Zealand are raising concerns about the project.

Aya Al-Umari, whose older brother Hussein was killed in the attacks, wrote on Twitter: “Yeah nah.”

Abdigani Ali, a spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Canterbury, said the community recognised the story of the attacks needed to be told, but added: “We would want to ensure that it’s done in appropriate, authentic, and sensitive matter.”

Tina Ngata, an author and advocate, tweeted that the killing of Muslim people should not be the backdrop for a film about "white woman strength”, writing: “COME ON.”

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Ardern’s office said in a brief statement that the prime minister and her government have no involvement with the movie.

The Independent has contacted Byrne and Niccol’s representatives for comment.

Additional reporting by AP