Following a backlash against Cannes virtual market package They Are Us, one of the producers of the project has exited and one of the subjects of the movie, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, has criticized the project.
Today, veteran producer Philippa Campbell, a producer on TV hit Top Of The Lake, apologized for her own involvement and said she had not realized the pain the film would cause.
“I have listened to the concerns raised over recent days and I have heard the strength of people’s views,” Campbell said in a statement to New Zealand media.
“I now agree that the events of 15 March 2019 are too raw for film at this time and do not wish to be involved with a project that is causing such distress.”
She continued, noting that the film wouldn’t only be focused on Ardern: “When I was approached to work on the film I was moved by the filmmakers’ vision to pay respect to the victims, their families, and those who assisted them. This was reinforced by research interviews undertaken by producer Ayman Jamal with members of the Muslim community in Christchurch. I also hoped that telling the story of swift gun control action might resonate in America and other countries that have struggled to create political consensus to control guns. I deeply regret the shock and hurt the announcement of the film has caused throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.”
New Zealand’s Prime Minister today criticized the project as poorly timed and focused on the wrong subject.
“In my view, which is a personal view, it feels very soon and very raw for New Zealand,” she told local media TVNZ.
“And while there are so many stories that should be told at some point, I don’t consider mine to be one of them.”
It’s very rare for a country’s leader to wade into a debate over a movie.
A petition from the National Islamic Youth Association calling for the movie to be canceled has gathered close to 60,000 signatures, arguing the film would marginalize “the victims and survivors and instead centres the response of a white woman.”
It also claimed the Muslim community had not been properly consulted about the project.
The mayor of Christchurch, where the attacks took place, said movie crews would not be welcome in her city.
“I’m just so outraged that they even think that this is an appropriate thing to do,” Lianne Dalziel told news outlet RNZ.
New Zealand film producer Chelsea Winstanley (JoJo Rabbit) contacted Deadline about the situation. The producer described the project announcement as “hurtful”:
“Many people have spoken out about the intention of this film. The messages we should be listening to are the calls from the Muslim community directly affected by this tragedy. On Twitter @mohamedwashere said: ‘You do not get to tell this story. You do not get to turn this into a white saviour narrative. This is not yours. This pain is still fresh and real. This is upsetting, obscene and grotesque. I am tired.'”
She continued: “The heroes of this tragedy are those who continue to live in the face of adversity, rising up against acts of white supremacy and acts of terror committed against them.”
On 15 March 2019, Australian self-declared white supremacist Brenton Tarrant opened fire on worshippers inside the Al Noor mosque, broadcasting the attack on Facebook Live. He then drove to the Linwood Islamic Centre where he continued his attack. The spree claimed the lives of 51 people, making it the deadliest shooting in New Zealand’s modern history.
Ardern had won widespread praise at the time for her handling of the crisis and the movie’s title is derived from a speech she gave at the time.
We have reached out to financiers FilmNation, CAA Media Finance and Rose Byrne’s reps for comment. The package remains in the market with Andrew Niccol set to direct.