They Are Us producer responds to 'too soon' backlash over Christchurch terror attack film

One of the producers of controversial Christchurch terror attack movie They Are Us has responded to the intense backlash prompted by the film's announcement, as it emerges the project may be seeking New Zealand taxpayer funding. 

The movie is set to star Rose Byrne as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and will focus on the response to the massacre at the mosques in which 51 people were murdered on March 15, 2019. 

They Are Us was immediately condemned as "sickening", "insensitive" and "too soon" by commentators who felt the big screen portrayal, focused largely on Ardern rather than the victims, was exploiting a national tragedy. 

Philippa Campbell, one of the film's producers, told Newshub: "The challenges are obviously huge." 

"We have a deep respect for the communities at the heart of the tragedy. We want to assure them and New Zealand audiences that we understand the responsibility of telling this story," she said. 

Campbell said that the production had worked with "a considerable number" of family members of the victims, but admitted they weren't able to consult with everyone. 

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the New Zealand Film Commission told Newshub while there was no indication the production would seek contestable financing from it, they understood They Are Us intends to apply for the New Zealand Screen Production Grant - part of the Government's screen incentives scheme. 

Campbell said that the film had been privately funded to date and the production was now exploring production financing, although she did not confirm which avenues it intended to take. 

The Taxpayers Union called the prospect of the film seeking taxpayer money "disgraceful", dubbing it "political propaganda" that New Zealanders should not be forced to fund. 

The film's Kiwi writer and director Andrew Nicoll said the story will be set between Friday, March 15, 2019 and the following Friday. 

"From the prayer day when a gunman chose to murder Muslims to the following prayer day when New Zealand chose to honour them," he said. 

"Instead of focusing on the attack, it focuses on the response to the attack. The acts of heroism and sacrifice, acts of compassion, charity and courage that occurred during that remarkable of weeks - when Jacinda Arden set an example of leadership to the world. How you can be strong and kind...and bring about real change." 

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister told Newshub Jacinda Ardern and the New Zealand Government had no involvement with the film.