The tragic March 2019 terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which 51 people lost their lives, will serve as the basis for a new film exploring the response of NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
The film, titled They Are Us, will star Australian actress Rose Byrne as Ardern, who was widely praised for her handling of the devastating event. The project will follow Ardern as she helped rally the government and citizens behind her message of compassion and unity and ban assault rifles in New Zealand. In fact, the film’s title was taken from Ardern’s rousing speech following the attack.
They Are Us will be written and directed by Kiwi filmmaker Andrew Niccol who said in a statement, “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.”
“The film addresses our common humanity, which is why I think it will speak to people around the world. It is an example of how we should respond when there’s an attack on our fellow human beings.”
Niccol’s project follows the 2020 announcement of another film that uses a deeply tragic shooting spree as its premise.
NITRAM, which is being produced by Stan Australia, will explore the events leading up to 1996’s Port Arthur Massacre, which was perpetrated by Martin Bryant. The film stars American actor Caleb Landry-Jones (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) who will play Bryant alongside Judy Davis (The Dressmaker), Essie Davis (True History of the Kelly Gang) and Anthony LaPaglia (Lantana).
The announcement that production on NITRAM — which is Bryant’s first name backwards — was underway was met with concern by many who cited its inherent potential for re-traumatising survivors and victims’ families.
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said at the time that he felt “highly uncomfortable” about the film and shared he shared his hope that the filmmakers would tread carefully with their subject matter.
“We should place firmly on the record that this is a continuing and ongoing raw issue for Tasmanians and it’s one that will make many people feel uncomfortable,” Gutwein said. “I would hope that the filmmakers would be sensitive in the way that they craft this particular production.”
Here’s hoping that Niccol also takes on board this important advice.