Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she was not consulted on a film about the Christchurch terror attacks, intended to centre on her response.

A member of the Muslim community uses his mobile phone out side the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15, 2020. The Muslim community says it wasn’t properly consulted about the making of a new movie. Photo: AFP


Yesterday it was announced a film with the working title ‘They Are Us’ would be made, focusing on the prime minister’s response to the 2019 attacks which killed 51 people.

Meanwhile, a petition to shut down the film had collected more than 20,000 signatures by early afternoon after being launched last night.

In a statement to RNZ today, Ardern said that film-makers did not consult her in any form about their plans.

She stopped short of condemning the film, despite the public petition asking her to do so.

But she said plenty of stories from 15 March could be told and she does not consider hers to be one of them.

The prime minister added the attacks on the two mosques remain very raw for New Zealand.


Jacinda ArdernJacinda Ardern says there are plenty of stories that could be told relating to the mosque attacks rather putting the focus on her. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone


Yesterday it was announced a film with the working title ‘They Are Us’ would be made.

The National Islamic Youth Association began the petition last night, saying it sidelines the victims and survivors and instead centres on the response of a white woman.

“NIYA holds the position that the development of such a film does not represent the lived experiences of the Christchurch Muslim community, neither of the wider New Zealand Muslim community who have faced the horror and terror that the March 15th attack subjected them to,” the petition states.

It calls on the funders, producers and the New Zealand film industry to boycott the film and urges Ardern to publicly denounce it.

NIYA accuses the film of being “tokenistic” and states New Zealand screenwriter and producer Andrew Niccol should not be the one to make it.

“It is not appropriate for Niccol, someone who has not experienced racism or Islamaphobia, to lead and profit off a story that is not his to tell,” the petition says.

It says the Muslim community has not been properly consulted and many members knew nothing about it until it was announced.

Support welcomed

NIYA co-chair Haris Murtaza told RNZ it is encouraging to see how rapidly the petition has attracted support.

“It’s heartening to see the support that’s there in opposition to this project. It’s really good to see the Muslim and non-Muslim communities have rallied together.”

He said it is clear many people share concerns about the film.

“It’s been a real positive to see it wasn’t only us that were thinking or feeling this way.”

The film’s producers have stated victims were consulted as part of the project, but Murtaza said he was yet to find anyone who had been approached.

“Being part of the community that’s been involved the past two years and having direct links in Christchurch – we [NIYA] are yet to come across anyone who was consulted, let alone anyone who affirmed the movie going ahead.”

He said there was no intention to take away from prime minister’s actions around March 15, but any film or project should be about the people who lost their lives and their stories.

“Our message to the prime minister is to show she strongly condemns this project and make sure it doesn’t receive taxpayer funding, and ensure there’s strong opposition from her and her government to ensure it doesn’t go ahead.”

Ardern’s office also released a statement yesterday saying that neither she nor the government have any involvement in the film.