Emotions are not mutual Or Was it too soon?
A movie about the 2019 Christchurch mosque attack gets confronted by fresh controversy as the producer backs off from the project. The movie plot has been accused of pushing a narrative of “White Saviour” by putting PM Jacinda Ardern in the centre. But there’s more to the picture, things ‘they’ are not talking about. The events concluding the role of the popular Prime Minister of NZ in the aftermath of the 2019 Christchurch attack are coming in the form of a live-action movie. The title of the movie ‘They are us’, has been taken from the famous speech she gave in the aftermath of the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootout.
But as soon as the details of the movie came out in public, it found itself surrounded by loads of criticism and controversies. Amid those controversies, the Australian star Rose Byrne who has been cast to play Ardern too left the role. And soon following her were the producers. The core of all these controversies and criticism have been built around a common narrative of “White Saviour”.
The White Washing of the Saviour
The reason being, PM Jacinda Ardern at the centre of the plot, is depicted as a saviour and a symbol of peace and justice. This depiction has been heavily criticised by the country’s Muslim community along with a group of survivors of the attack. The voice of the Muslim community was first heard by the leaders of the National Islamic Youth Association. They directly blamed the proposed movie for undermining the emotions and voice of victims and presenting a ‘white woman’ as the saviour.
Watch: Controversy Around They Are Us
It is clear from the event why the “White Saviour” narrative has been raised by people. The terrorist responsible for the attack was identified as a white supremacist. A petition moved forward to demand scrapping of the project has received tens of thousands of signatures from the Muslim community of the country. Also, the PM showed her disapproval of the project by calling it “Too soon and too raw”.
Is it too soon or too late?
The popularity of PM Ardern went all-time high in the aftermath of the attack, mostly because of the vocal support she conveyed to the Muslim community of NZ. Moreover, the attacker was caught immediately, and all its glory went to the Prime Minister as a safe deposit. She called the announcement of the movie “too soon”, but as some New Zealand news outlets pointed out, it’s too late for her, now that there is an apparent division in the two communities.
No doubt that hailing the narrative of “White Saviour” was an outburst of the Muslim community after the attacker was revealed as a white supremacist. But those same news outlets were repeatedly raising the issue of growing Islamic fundamentalism among the country’s Muslim community.
On a different note, producer Nick Batzias calls this growing controversy “hot potato for obvious reasons”. He cleared it in the beginning that the movie is about the reverberation of the incident and how it was handled by the leadership of the country. There will not be any scenes of shooting, which may reiterate the trauma on victims and affected families.
The Central Idea of the Movie
Andrew Niccol, the write-director of the proposed movie, says that it’s not just about the role of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The movie will eulogise the bravery and determination of the victims, those who stood with their humanity intact in the wake of certain death. The producers reportedly have met and discussed this issue with the Imams of both Mosques involved in the shootings. According to them, the Muslim association have agreed to “work closely with the producers”.
Despite all these efforts and agreements, the sharp words being used by some Muslim leaders of the community seems unfortunate. The prime minister feels proud to say “they are us” on an open platform, but this criticism does not reflect the same emotions from the other side too. And that’s the issue, that’s the real controversy and the chink in the armour of PM Jacinda Ardern’s strong illustration.