Canterbury Muslim community to work with They Are Us filmmakers to address concerns over Christchurch terror attack film

The Muslim Association of Canterbury has announced it will "work closely" with producers of a controversial upcoming Christchurch terror attack film after sharing their concerns about the movie's focus and timing. 

Spokesman Abdigani Ali from the Al Noor Mosque said the remaining producers of They Are Us had reached out and consulted with the association, sharing the film's synopsis and "listening to concerns". 

"We have agreed to work closely with the producers to facilitate this process of consultation and any victims of the March 15 terrorist attack who are the families of the victims, the survivors or witnesses," Ali said in a joint statement released alongside They Are Us producer Ayman Jamal. 

Ali said the Muslim Association of Canterbury (MAC) acknowledged producers had spoken with both the Imams of Al Noor and Linwood Mosque and some of the victims of the white supremacist attack in which 51 people murdered, but that further consultation was needed. 

Meanwhile, Jamal said the filmmakers were "devastated" by the "pain and concerns" caused by the film's announcement last week. 

"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," he said in the statement. 

Jamal said that consultation with the Imams and "over 20 other victims" of the March 15 attack had taken place over a year ago "when the community was going through a lot". 

"We were engaging only with those families who were ready to share their story with us at that time," he said. 

"We deeply regret that we did not reach all of the families of the victims, survivors and witnesses and we want to sincerely show that we are here to listen and consult with every last victim of this tragic event who wants to express their views, irrespective of what the view is, and that we are ready to hear the many more inspiring stories for those who would like to share them with us." 

The film is set to star Australian actress Rose Byrne as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has expressed her "deep discomfort" with the premise and confirmed neither she nor the New Zealand Government had any involvement. 

Jamal insisted They Are Us had "no one hero", saying the project was developed to share the unique stories of some of the victims. 

"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," he said. 

"There is no one hero in this film, collectively the New Zealand people from diverse backgrounds showed us, the rest of the world, that together they turned a horrific terrorist attack to unity, love and compassion by sticking together and affirming that they are all one and in this together." 

Meanwhile, the public outcry against the film - which includes a petition to shut it down with nearly 64,000 signatures at the time of writing - prompted producer Philippa Campbell to withdraw from the production. 

"'I've listened to the concerns raised over recent days and I have heard the strength of people's views. I now agree that the events of March 15, 2019 are too raw for film at this time and do not wish to be involved with a project that is causing such distress," Campbell said in a statement on Monday.