Aussie actress Rose Byrne has signed on to star as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in They Are Us, a film focusing on the week that followed the horrifying 2019 Christchurch Massacre that targeted New Zealand’s Muslim community.
The film will be looking at how Arden responded to the two consecutive mass shootings directed at mosques during Friday Prayer on 15 March 2019. The single gunman killed 51 people and injured 40. Arden’s response was one of compassion and unity, as well as decisiveness with a ruling to ban assault rifles.
Writing and directing the film is New Zealand filmmaker Andrew Niccol, whose directing credits include Gattaca, Lord of War, In Time and Good Kill. He also wrote Oscar-nominated Jim Carrey film The Truman Show. Niccol’s screenplay is said to have been crafted in consultation with members of mosques that were impacted by that fateful day.
“They Are Us is not so much about the attack but the response to the attack [and] how an unprecedented act of hate was overcome by an outpouring of love and support,” Niccol said in a statement. “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.”
News of the project hasn’t been met with open arms from everyone. #TheyAreUsShutDown hit Twitter’s trending list shortly after the film was announced, with criticisms saying the planned film is “sidelining” actual muslim victims and promoting “white saviour” tropes. A change.org petition to shut the project down was also started.
The title They Are Us is a direct reference to words shared by Ardern in her address at a 2019 memorial service for the Christchurch victims. You can watch it in full below.