A proposed film about the March 15 attacks seeks to whitewash the murder of 51 people and the permanent scars left on so many more. It must be shut down, writes Guled Mire.
When news emerged last week about the making of a grotesque, white innocence film fetishising Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response to the Christchurch terror attacks, I could not help but initially think it was some kind of satire.
As a diverse community, we often have different perspectives on any given matter concerning us but this time was different.
We unanimously came together and agreed it is the victims and their families who should be centred in any proposed film about the events of March 15.
Creators of the film have since defended concerns regarding white saviourism and the de-centring of the victims and survivors of the March 15 tragedy, saying it will acknowledge a “host of heroes” while refusing to provide further details.
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They Are Us producer Philippa Campbell, who has since resigned from her role, initially issued a statement after the immediate online backlash at the film, telling media: “We have a deep respect for the communities at the heart of the tragedy. We want to assure them and New Zealand audiences that we understand the responsibility of telling this story.”
It’s clear the proposed film has gone too far and needs to shut down immediately.
We know all too well the consequences of Hollywood’s sloppy portrayal and misrepresentation of Muslims. And They Are Us is another example of lazy filmmaking that seeks to drive the same old narrative.
It seeks to whitewash the murder of 51 people and the permanent scars left on so many more.
What we do not need is for Hollywood to appropriate, rewrite and shove another white saviour narrative down our throats.
At the very worst, the film represents torture porn.
I will be honest and acknowledge that I can’t name any other New Zealand or international leader who would have responded to an attack against Muslims the way our Prime Minister did.
But frankly speaking, there is nothing to celebrate about the actions of Ardern in the initial days following March 15.
She simply did what is required from a leader.
Yet, the fact that the Prime Minister’s character was cast before any of the victims shows the claims there are a whole range of “heroes” is simply disingenuous and only reinforces concerns many of us have about this film
A blockbuster film on the atrocities is no doubt inevitable, but also too soon, as many have argued.
It is clear from the 60,000 people (that number is still growing) who have signed our petition that They Are Us is not the one the Muslim community and wider public would like to see shown on the big screen.
The film is set to be directed by Andrew Niccol, who is a good writer but who doesn’t have a history of writing movies with a strong representation of people of colour. Take Gattaca, which was about eugenics but somehow managed to cast very few non-white characters. The Truman Show was also made up of an almost entirely white cast.
Niccol is not the screenwriter you call in when you want to write a movie about white supremacy, Islamophobia, racism or xenophobia.
The fact this proposed film has even surfaced is indicative of a worldwide industry that fails to understand Muslims and portrays us in a way that reinforces stereotypes and feeds into a white saviour narrative.
You often see a tragic event like this receiving global attention, but little coverage of the aftermath and consequences it has for those who have survived.
There is the emotional loss, mental health effects and people still dealing with injuries.
These are the stories that must be covered in a movie about March 15.
Our focus is to ensure we see the deplatforming of this movie.
And while Ardern initially distanced herself from the project, issuing a statement indicating neither she nor her Government were involved, she later caved into pressure, saying “my story is not the one to be told”.
While her statement could have been stronger, it is a helpful start. Still, it’s short of being enough.
If Hollywood doesn’t back down, Ardern’s Government must ensure there will be no opportunity for the creators to access subsidies to develop the movie.
It is hard to imagine movie studios providing approval for the production of this film without some form of government assistance, which the Film Commission tells media it may seek to apply for further funding.
The only good thing to have come from this movie proposal is that it has united the Muslim community and non-Muslims alike.
We all will not stop until this movie is shut down.