Tentative plans for a movie that recounts the response of New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern to the mass shooting of Muslim worshippers have drawn criticism for not focusing on the victims.
Hollywood news outlet Deadline reported that Australian actor Rose Byrne was set to play Ms Ardern in the movie They Are Us, which is being offered by New York-based FilmNation Entertainment to international buyers.
The movie would be set in the days after the 2019 attacks in which 51 people were killed at two Christchurch mosques.
Deadline said the movie would follow Ms Ardern’s response to the attacks and how people rallied behind her message of compassion and unity, and her successful call to ban the deadliest types of semi-automatic weapons.
The title of the movie comes from the words Ms Ardern spoke in a landmark address soon after the attacks. The prime minister was praised around the world for her response.
But many in New Zealand are raising concerns about the movie plans.
Aya Al-Umari, whose older brother Hussein was killed in the attacks, wrote on Twitter simply: “Yeah nah,” a New Zealand phrase meaning: “No.”
Abdigani Ali, a spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Canterbury, said the community recognised the story of the attacks needed to be told, “but we would want to ensure that it’s done in appropriate, authentic, and sensitive matter”.
Tina Ngata, an author and advocate, was more blunt, tweeting that the slaughter of Muslims should not be the backdrop for a film about “white woman strength. COME ON.”
Ms Ardern’s office said in a brief statement that the prime minister and her government have no involvement with the movie.
Byrne’s agents and FilmNation did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The report said the project would be filmed in New Zealand, but did not say when.
Deadline reported that New Zealander Andrew Niccol would write and direct the project.
Niccol is known for writing and directing Gattaca and writing The Terminal and The Truman Show, for which he was nominated for an Oscar.
Byrne is known for roles in Spy and Bridesmaids.