A New Zealand producer for the proposed Christchurch terror attacks film has withdrawn following intense criticism and accusations of whitewashing in the days after its announcement.
The film, They Are Us, will centre around Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern following the events of March 15, 2019.
Fifty-one Muslims were killed while they prayed at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre on March 15, 2019. Many more were seriously injured.
The film was met with derision from the Muslim community and the Prime Minister, who called the events "very soon and very raw".
Ardern said she had nothing to do with the proposal.
In a press conference this afternoon, Ardern expressed her "discomfort" around the project, but added that it would be "seen to be wrong if I intervened in that way".
She also reiterated that the attacks continue to be a "very raw event for New Zealand - even more so, of course, for the community that experienced it".
She said while she agreed that stories about the events of March 15 should be told "at some point", they are "stories of our Muslim community and so they need to be at the centre of that".
"I don’t consider mine to be one of the stories that needs to be told."
Muslim community advocate Guled Mire told 1 NEWS the day it was announced that "the movie in itself is very distasteful".
"It completely feeds into this white saviour mentality complex and I think it's just completely insensitive, particularly in light of the reality that many of the victims of the Christchurch terrorist attack and their families continue to face," he said.
In a statement, Auckland-based film and television producer Philippa Campbell said she "deeply regrets the shock and hurt the announcement of the film led to throughout Aotearoa New Zealand".
“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.
“When I was approached to work on the film I was moved by the filmmakers’ vision to pay respect to the victims, their families, and those who assisted them. This was reinforced by research interviews undertaken by producer Ayman Jamal with members of the Muslim community in Christchurch."
She said she had also hoped the introduction of stringent gun control laws in the wake of the attacks "might resonate in America and other countries that have struggled to create political consensus to control guns".
Campbell said the announcement focussed on the film business and "did not take enough account of the political and human context of the story in this country".
"It’s the complexity of that context I’ve been reflecting on that has led me to this decision."
The National Islamic Youth Association (NIYA), which started a petition to get the film scrapped, says they are "grateful" that their petition and advocacy has "raised awareness on the concerns surrounding the 'They Are Us' film and that this is leading to tangible results".
"It is pivotal to encompass the lived experiences and voices of the victim community to anything that is relevant to March 15, and this should be central to such a process," NIYA said in a statement.
"We are pleased with Philippa Campbell for her reflections and decision to pull out of the film. We would also like to acknowledge the aroha and support of the 58,000+ people that have signed and supported our petition and cause."
Australian actress Rose Byrne has already been cast to play Ardern, while New Zealand screenwriter Andrew Niccol is attached to write and direct the film.
"They Are Us is not so much about the attack but the response to the attack," Niccol told The Hollywood Reporter following its announcement on Friday.
"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."