"They Are Us" film about PM Jacinda Ardern's response to 2019 Christchurch terror attacks has been slammed by New Zealand's Muslims and others for pushing a "white saviour" narrative and "sidelining the victims".
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has criticised a planned movie about her response to the 2019 Christchurch terror attacks as poorly timed and focused on the wrong subject.
The US-backed film "They Are Us" has sparked an intense backlash among New Zealand Muslims, with community leaders slamming the project for pushing a "white saviour" narrative.
Ardern said on Monday the attacks –– when a white supremacist gunman ran amok at two mosques during Friday prayers, killing 51 and seriously wounding another 40 –– remained "very raw" for many New Zealanders.
She said filmmakers had not consulted her about the movie, which is set to star Australia's Rose Byrne as the centre-left leader.
"In my view, which is a personal view, it feels very soon and very raw for New Zealand," Ardern told TVNZ.
"And while there are so many stories that should be told at some point, I don't consider mine to be one of them –– they are the community's stories, the families' stories."
READ MORE: New Zealand Muslims say Christchurch attacks movie ‘too soon’
Ardern won widespread praise for her empathetic and inclusive handling of the attacks, the worst terror attack in modern New Zealand history, including wearing a scarf when meeting mourners.
The movie's title references a line from a speech she gave in the immediate aftermath of the terror attack when she pledged to support the Muslim community and tighten gun laws.
Producer resigns as criticism grows
Philippa Campbell, New Zealand producer, on Monday announced that she was resigning, according to The Guardian.
“I’ve listened to the concerns raised over recent days and I have heard the strength of people’s views. I now agree that the events of March 15, 2019 are too raw for film at this time and do not wish to be involved with a project that is causing such distress,” she said.
Film 'sidelines the victims'
A petition from the National Islamic Youth Association calling for the production to be shut down has gathered more than 58,000 signatures.
The association said the proposed film "sidelines the victims and survivors and instead centres the response of a white woman".
It said the Muslim community had not been properly consulted about the project, which has been scripted by New Zealand writer Andrew Niccol.
"Entities and individuals should not seek to commercialise or profit from a tragedy that befell our community, neither should such an atrocity be sensationalised", association co-chair Haris Murtaza said.
The New Zealand National Islamic Youth Association have just released this petition to shut down the proposed 'they are us' film.— Guled Mire (@GuledMire) June 11, 2021
You know what to do folks, let get this popping again. #TheyAreUsShutDown https://t.co/BUgb9eNlSn
'This is not yours'
Muslim poet Mohamed Hassan said the filmmakers needed to focus on members of the community that bore the brunt of the attacks, not use them as props in a feel-good story about Ardern.
"You do not get to tell this story. You do not get to turn this into a White Saviour narrative. This is not yours," he tweeted.
The attacker, Australian self-declared white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, was jailed for life without parole last year, the first time a whole-of-life term has been imposed in New Zealand.
READ MORE: New Zealand's Ardern: World needs to talk about racism, white supremacy