‘They Aren’t Us’ film transcript worse than the live stream, say victims’ families

A leaked draft script of the controversial film which depicts the 2019 Christchurch mosque shooting has been called “worse than the livestream” by those who lost relatives in the attack.

The film, They Are Us, focuses on the attack which took place in 2019 where 51 Muslim worshippers were killed at al Noor mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre.

It takes its name from comments which New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Arden made following the attack which was livestreamed by the gunman on Facebook.

The film was announced in June and has come under fire, being called “exploitative”, “insensitive” and “obscene”. Its announcement also triggered an online petition which led the film’s producer, Philippa Campbell, to resign after it gathered nearly 75,000 signatures.

Initially, it appeared that filmmakers were going to focus on Ms Arden’s response to the attack and its aftermath.

Indeed, earlier this year, scriptwriter Andrew Niccol told the Hollywood Reporter: “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.”

A leaked 124-page-long script however, appears to be somewhat different with New Zealand’s Newshub, which saw the script, reporting that 17 pages or 17 minutes of the film are devoted to the attack itself.

According to the news service, 15 deaths are described in graphic detail and facts about real people who were involved have been changed.

The writers are also said to describe a silhouette of the gunman, pointing out that it is the “most we will ever see of the gunman. The lack of a clear visual context of the gunman somehow makes the event more shocking, more frightening – mostly what we are left with is the brutality of the sound of unrelenting gunfire”.

Salwa Mohamad, whose lost both her husband, Khaled, and son, Hamza Mustafa, at the attack on al Noor mosque, said that violence in the film was “worse than the livestream,” reported Newshub.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand, Anjum Rahman, said the leaked draft “beggars belief.”.

Adding: “This is absolutely not about people impacted by the tragedy of this film at all, not in any way.”

Ms Rahman said she has not read the script but said she felt that the depiction of violence she had seen in Newshub’s screenshots was dangerous. She pointed out this was especially true given that there were copycat attacks planned following the 2019 massacre.

“The livestream is objectionable material in New Zealand. To have it portrayed in graphic detail on the screen like that, I don’t understand what purpose it serves,” Ms Rahman said.

Aya Al-Umari, who lost her brother Hussein in the attack said that she was deeply troubled by what she had read about the script.

“It’s just wrong on so many levels. This has affected many people beyond the scope of directly impacted victims. Anyone who has been exposed to the [livestreamed] video is traumatised by it – to see that made into a drama and profited on is wrong on so many levels.”

She added: “How would they feel if it was their brother, sister, mother or father who had been slaughtered and live streamed in this manner and then someone goes and does a movie about it?”

Meanwhile others said that the script looked to be the opposite of what the film-makers initially proposed, which was to focus on the aftermath of the attack.

Guled Mire, a writer and community advocate, said that telling the stories of Islamophobia should be reserved for those who have actually lived through the events.

On Twitter, he called on actor Rose Byrne, who is set to play the part of Jacinda Arden, to step down.