Shut Down 'They Are Us' Movie, which side-lines victims of the March 15th terrorist attack

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51 of our Muslim whānau were murdered by a white supremacist terrorist in Christchurch on 15 March 2019 – including Naeem Rashid, a father and a teacher from Pakistan; Hussein Al-Umari, who moved from Abu Dhabi to Christchurch with his sister, Aya in 1997; Haji-Daoud Nabi, who loved cars, Harley Davidson motorbikes, travelling and his grandchildren. The shuhadaa’ (martyrs) are survived by families and communities, who continue to be affected by the violence.

We, the undersigned, call for the following actions to ensure the film ‘They Are Us’ does not go ahead, as it side-lines the victims and survivors and instead centres the response of a white woman:

  • FilmNation Entertainment and CAA Media Finance – cease your involvement with the film
  • Potential funders and the film industry – do not provide any support, financial or otherwise, to the film
  • PM Jacinda Ardern – make a statement to strongly denounce the film and make it clear that the New Zealand Government will not provide any support to enable it to go ahead.

We are all calling on the NZ film industry to:

  • Say no to them using your locations
    Say no to hiring gear Say no to being talent Say no to being crew
    Say no to interviewing them or promoting on your media platforms
    Say no to “They Are Us” Film

#GiveNothingToRacism #TheyAreUsShutdown

Why ‘They Are Us’ is so problematic

The film centres white voices and therefore will continue to white-wash the horrific violence perpetrated against Muslim communities.

The writer and director of ‘They Are Us’, Andrew Niccol, stated that “They Are Us is not so much about the attack but the response to the attack…how an unprecedented act of hate was overcome by an outpouring of love and support”. 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.

It is also inappropriate that the film appears to center PM Jacinda Ardern, a white woman. She received praise in the wake of the attacks but there are ongoing issues with the Government’s response, including that witnesses who were not physically injured cannot access mental health support through ACC, and the lack of urgency changing hate speech laws.

The NZ Muslim community was not properly consulted (if at all)

An article in Deadline states that “The script was developed in consultation with several members of the mosques affected by the tragedy”, however many members of the Christchurch Muslim community have no knowledge of the film, including:

  • Aya Al-Umari, whose brother Hussein was killed in the attacks: "Without knowing the context of the movie I'm not sure I can put a positive spin to it. It seems like it’s just capitalising on what happened here, and I don’t think it will be well received in New Zealand.”
  • Tony Green, member of the An-Nur mosque who acted as a media spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Canterbury after the attacks: “If you were serious about a movie which was about possibly New Zealand’s worst event domestically, you’d want to know this was grounded in a fairly wide a decent coverage of those who were affected, and at first glance, we’ve all been blindsided by this, that does not appear to have happened”
  • Guled Mire, Muslim Community Advocate: “This film is a terrible insensitive idea and needs to shut down urgently”

The National Islamic Youth Association (NIYA) calls for the production of the “They are us” film to be cancelled immediately.

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.

“Any film that seeks to represent the experiences of such an attack requires the direct and constant consultation of the Muslim community and must be done through an exercise that isn’t represented in a tokenistic manner”, said Sondos Qur’aan, Co-Chair of NIYA.

“The “They Are Us” movie is insensitive and would only serve to invalidate the experiences of survivors and victims of the attack and cannot be supported by our organisation”, Sondos Qur’aan added.

"The shuhadaa’ (martyrs), their families, and the wider victim community deserve to be thoroughly consulted and at the heart of any projects that relate to the March 15th terror attacks. Entities and individuals should not seek to commercialise or profit from a tragedy that befell our community, neither should such an atrocity be sensationalised", added Haris Murtaza, Co-Chair of NIYA.

Survivors’ stories

https://www.rnz.co.nz/programmes/widows-of-shuhada

https://interactives.stuff.co.nz/2020/03/nine-bullets/

https://shorthand.radionz.co.nz/they-are-us/index.html

 

Further reading

https://christchurchattack.royalcommission.nz/the-report/

https://www.hrc.co.nz/files/3716/1588/7040/HRC_Reflections_on_the_report_of_the_RCI_on_terrorist_attacks_on_Christchurch_Masjidain_FINAL.pdf

Other sources

Deadline - Rose Byrne To Star As New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern In ‘They Are Us’ About Response To 2019 Christchurch Attacks

Stuff - Rose Byrne to play New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in film based on Christchurch mosque shootings

Stuff - Muslim community was 'blindsided' by news of upcoming film about Christchurch mosque attacks, members say

Newshub - Calls for hate speech law change after Christchurch terror attack victim's son allegedly racially abused

Stuff - Christchurch terror attack: Jacinda Ardern says Government can't expand ACC cover for traumatised victims



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