Christchurch mosque shooting movie: Jacinda Ardern says ‘They Are Us’ filmmakers need to listen amid public outcry


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is calling on the film-makers of a planned movie based on the deadly March 15 Christchurch terror attack to listen after public outcry after the leaking of a draft script.

An early copy of the draft script for the planned Hollywood movie “They Are Us” was leaked to Newshub.

The attack takes place over 17 of the 124 pages and depicts 15 deaths in graphic detail and many more woundings, Newshub reported.

The script was shown to three families who lost loved ones that day.

Ardern told the AM Show that while she can’t stop a film being made in regards to the proposed “They are us” Hollywood movie, she is asking for the producers and the film-makers to listen.

“I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose someone under such horrific circumstances and then to see it be re-enacted.”

She said actors can be replaced so the message really needed to be sent to the decision-makers and those seeking funding for it.

She had no doubt that Rose Byrne, who had been cast to play her, was hearing her message.

“It feels insensitive to me – that’s how it feels to the families.”

“Let’s put it where it needs to sit – the producers.”

She believed Kiwis would boycott the movie and acknowledged the overall public response had been against it being made.

Anjum Rahman, of the Islamic Women’s Council, is echoing that message.

The difference between “They Are Us” and other films depicting events such as the attacks on 9/11 was the timing, she said.

“A lot of those films happened quite a bit after the fact. This is really fresh.

“When I think of, for example, the attack on the Twin Towers in the United States, there’s a lot of movies that claim to depict it but they’re not really around the actual victim.

“I feel like if you’re gonna do what they’re doing, it’s the same as the live stream, it’s really not any difference there, and that’s objectionable material in New Zealand.”

Rahman said the danger is she thinks the film is going to inspire more copycat attacks.

“This is about people’s safety as well.”

She said the most they can do is apply public pressure on the film-makers.

“We would hope the Government would speak out against this film and start talking to people internationally to also put pressure on because this film as the script has been shown is just unacceptable,” she said.

Rahman said she thinks if the draft script was going to change, film-makers would be in Christchurch talking to people and “making an effort”.

“But that’s not visible in any way at all.”

Unethical. Totally immoral. Unacceptable.

Those are the words Ambreen Naeem has used to describe a planned movie based on the deadly March 15 terror attack, where her husband Naeem and son Talha were killed.

An early copy of the draft script for the planned Hollywood movie “They Are Us” was leaked to Newshub.

The attack takes place over 17 of the 124 pages and depicts 15 deaths in graphic detail and many more woundings, Newshub reported.

The script was shown to three families who lost loved ones that day.

“It’s quite distressing and retraumatising,” Ambreen said.

The version of the script opens with a description of shoes outside Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque and the date March 15, 2019.

The draft script describes the terrorist’s presence in the film as a “jarring image” and a “de-focused silhouette” while a writer’s note says all flash cuts were to be accompanied by “discordant, foreboding sound”.

Salwa Mohamad’s husband Khaled and son Hamza were murdered at Al Noor Mosque.

The script cuts to a Christchurch farm, where a man – named as Khaled Mustafa – is stroking a thoroughbred stallion and looking at his son Hamza, who is playing with a soccer ball.

But Hamza wasn’t playing soccer that day, he was at school.

In the script, Khaled and Hamza are depicted dead in each other’s arms in the mosque.

But they did not die together in the mosque.

“They are changing the facts. They are making their own facts. It’s not true what I read in that scene,” Salwa told Newshub.

Salwa has not been approached by the producers of the movie.

One of the heroes of March 15 is Naeem Rashid, who tried to grab the gun from the terrorist – but this heroism isn’t included in this script.

“Nobody even bothered to ask us. It’s unethical, totally immoral, and unacceptable,” Naeem’s widow Ambreen said.

Talha Naeem, son of Ambreen and Naeem, was also killed in the terrorist attack.

Talha’s younger brother Abdullah Naeem said the script had details wrong about his father and brother as well.

“Hollywood has no right to portray them as they see fit. They can’t just create a false narrative … just to make money.

“I was trembling when I read, it was so horrifying. I can’t believe someone could even create this.”

In the movie’s synopsis, released publicly, producer Ayman Jamal said: “In a mirror of New Zealand’s own approach, during the film, the gunman is never shown and his name is never spoken.”

But a director’s note in the script obtained by Newshub said a “lack of a clear visual context for the gunman somehow makes the event more shocking, more frightening – mostly what we are left with is the brutality of the sound of unrelenting gunfire.”

Maha Elmadani, who lost her father Ali in the attack, said keeping the terrorist’s face in darkness “just adds to that notoriety”.

“It just makes the whole thing more obvious, that the point of this movie is to create a big drama, and turn this into some kind of horror movie.”

The script describes a “cacophony of gunfire and shell casings ricocheting off the floor and walls, a hard rain”.

Maha said she couldn’t see how the movie was any different from the live stream, while Salwa said it was worse.

Salwa said a movie based on this script could inspire other white supremacists – and she feared what it would mean for the March 15 terrorist.

“He will be very proud of himself. He will think that he won and that will add to his notoriety.”

Jacinda Ardern would be played by Australian actor Rose Byrne.

Salwa asked Byrne to put herself in her shoes.

Producers say the script is still in development and subject to change.

Producer Ayman Jamal told Newshub today that they wholeheartedly respected any victim family that did not want to share their story and they would not mention or showcase their loved ones’ stories.

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