New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern criticized a film about the attacks on the Christchurch mosque in 2019.
- The film sparked a backlash in New Zealand.
- Muslim leaders also criticized the production.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday criticized a planned film about her response to the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks for being poorly timed and focused on the wrong topic.
The US-backed film They Are Us has sparked intense backlash among Muslims in New Zealand, with community leaders criticizing the project for pushing a “white savior” narrative.
READ | New Zealand arrests two over anniversary threat of mosque attacks
Ardern said the attacks, when a white supremacist gunman raged at two mosques during Friday prayers, killing 51 and seriously wounding 40 others, remained “very crude” for many New Zealanders.
She said the filmmakers had not consulted her on the film, which will star Australian Rose Byrne as the center-left leader.
“In my opinion, which is a personal opinion, it feels very early and very crude for New Zealand,” Ardern told TVNZ.
“And although 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 stories of the community, the stories of the families.”
Ardern won widespread praise for his empathetic and inclusive handling of the attacks, the worst mass shooting in modern New Zealand history, including wearing a scarf when meeting mourners.
The film’s title refers to a line from a speech he made in the immediate aftermath of the atrocity when he vowed to support the Muslim community and toughen gun laws.
A petition from the National Association of Islamic Youth calling for the closure of production has gathered more than 58,000 signatures.
The association said the proposed film “orients victims and survivors and instead focuses on a white woman’s response.”
He said the Muslim community had not been properly consulted on the project, which has been written by New Zealand writer Andrew Niccol.
“Entities and individuals should not seek to commercialize or profit from a tragedy that affected our community, nor should such an outrage be sensational,” said association co-chair Haris Murtaza.
Muslim poet Mohamed Hassan said filmmakers should focus on community members who suffered the brunt of the attacks, not use them as props in a story to feel good about Ardern.
“You cannot tell this story. You cannot turn this into a White Savior narrative. This is not yours,” he tweeted.
The attacker, self-proclaimed Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, was jailed for life without parole in 2020, the first time a life sentence has been imposed in New Zealand.
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