Amid backlash against their upcoming movie “They Are Us” about the Christchurch massacre, producer Ayman Jamal recently released a statement to clarify about the said project.
Earlier, the proposed movie received backlash from many after it was reported that it will focus on New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s actions and response in the wake after the act of terrorism, prompting many to accuse it of promoting the idea of “a white saviour”. The misunderstanding was possibly caused by the announcement that Hollywood-famous actress Rose Byrne will be playing Ardern in the movie.
In a joint-statement with Muslim Association of Canterbury (Al Noor Mosque), Ayman expressed, “First and foremost, we are devastated by the pain and concerns caused by the announcement of the film by the members of the New Zealand public, the Muslim community of New Zealand and in particular the victims directly impacted by events of March 15th 2019 in Christchurch. This was never our intention, and we believe we owe a clarification to those families who lost their loved ones, survivors and witnesses regarding the film, its purpose and intention.
“Over a year ago, we have consulted with the local Muslim community of Christchurch which included Imam Gamal Fouda of Al Noor Mosque and Imam Alabi Lateef Zikrullah of Linwood Mosque and over 20 other victims of the March 15th attack. At the time the Christchurch Muslim community was going through a lot, and we were engaging only with those families who were ready to share their story with us at that time.”
“This project was developed to share these and some of the other unique 20 plus stories that the victim families have shared with us who are the real inspiring stories and heroes with the whole world. That is why we called the movie ‘they are us’ – we wanted their stories to be heard and to make it our obligation to tell these unique stories to the world.
His explanation was backed up by the association, saying that producers have contacted and spoken to both the Imams of Al Noor and Linwood Mosque and some of the victims of March 15th terrorist attack who came forward and shared their stories.
“We have agreed to work closely with the producers to facilitate this process of consultation and any victims of the March 15th terrorist attack who are the families of the victims, the survivors or witnesses can send their request for consultation to: firstname.lastname@example.org and rest assured you will be contacted as the producers have made a commitment to work with our community in an appropriate, authentic and sensitive manner.”
Stressing that there is no one hero in the film, Ayman also shared the synopsis of the film, which read, “They Are Us takes place over one remarkable week, from a Friday to a Friday, Jumu’ah to jumu’ah. From the Prayer Day when a gunman chose to murder Muslims in New Zealand to the following Prayer Day when the country chose to honour them. In a mirror of New Zealand’s own approach, during the film the gunman is never shown and his name is never spoken. Instead, during the attack we witness the acts of heroism and sacrifice. The worshippers who confronted the gunman at Masjid Al Noor and shielded their fellow worshippers. At Masjid Aroha – Linwood Islamic Centre – we witness the courage of the unarmed worshipper, Abdul Aziz, who chased the gunman away and in doing so saved so many lives; the Imams of the two mosques, Fouda and Zikrullah, advocating for the families of the victims, including urging that the bodies be released in accordance with the Muslim faith. We witness the Muslim surgeon who saved the life of a four-year old girl wounded in the attack and the Christchurch residents who came to the aid of worshippers. We depict worshipper Farid Ahmed, who very publicly forgave his wife’s murderer. We depict how refugees, fleeing violence, were forced to come to terms with the cruel irony that violence claimed them in one of the safest places on earth. And we witness the actions of Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, during this remarkable week. How, an hour after hearing of the attack, she instinctively penned those three simple but unforgettable words of love and solidarity, ‘They are us.’ And in this week, she achieved in six days what countries like the United States have failed to do in decades – Banning assault rifles and all weapons of war used in the attack.”