Those affected by the Christchurch terrorist attacks two years ago have agreed to work with filmmakers to address the concerns in the controversial new film They Are Us.
The film, announced on Friday, was immediately hit with criticism for focussing on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern - set to be played by Australian actress Rose Byrne - rather than the victims of the attack.
"They Are Us is not so much about the attack but the response to the attack," New Zealand director and writer Andrew Niccol last week told The Hollywood Reporter.
"The film addresses our common humanity, which is why I think it will speak to people around the world."
However, victims of the attack, their families and Muslim community advocates slammed the concept as "white-washed" and feeding into a white saviour narrative.
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.
However, the Muslim Association of Canterbury released a joint statement with a producer of the film overnight saying they want to work together to both address concerns and have better consultation by those affected by the attacks.
"We have agreed to work closely with the producers to facilitate this process of consultation and any victims of the March 15th terrorist attack who are the families of the victims, the survivors or witnesses," association spokesperson Abdigani Ali said.
"MAC acknowledges that the producers have contacted and spoken to both the Imams of Al Noor and Linwood Mosque and some of the victims of March 15th terrorist attack who came forward and shared their stories with film producers, however we have come to an understanding that more consultation needs to be done with the victims."
Anyone wanting to request consultation is urged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org where they will then we contacted by producers and a commitment made to work together in an appropriate, authentic and sensitive manner.
They Are Us producer Ayman Jamal said he was "devastated by the pain and concerns" from New Zealanders, the Muslim community and those impacted by the horrific attacks when the film was announced 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."
Jamal said filmmakers had consulted with the local Muslim community of Christchurch which included Imam Gamal Fouda of Al Noor Mosque and Imam Alabi Lateef Zikrullah of Linwood Mosque and over 20 other victims of the terrorist attack, but added he "deeply regrets" not reaching all families, survivors and witnesses involved.
"At the time the Christchurch Muslim community was going through a lot, and we were engaging only with those families who were ready to share their story with us at that time," he said.
"This project was developed to share these and some of the other unique 20 plus stories that the victim families have shared with us who are the real inspiring stories and heroes with the whole world. 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.
"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 an horrific terrorist attack to unity, love and compassion by sticking together and affirming that they are all one and in this together."
Ayman Jamal detailed the synopis of They Are Us in the statement which reads as follows:
"They Are Us takes place over one remarkable week, from a Friday to a Friday. Jumu’ah to jumu’ah. From the Prayer Day when a gunman chose to murder Muslims in New Zealand to the following Prayer Day when the country chose to honour them."
"In a mirror of New Zealand’s own approach, during the film the gunman is never shown and his name is never spoken.
"Instead, during the attack we witness the acts of heroism and sacrifice. The worshippers who confronted the gunman at Masjid Al Noor and shielded their fellow worshippers. At Masjid Aroha - Linwood Islamic Centre – we witness the courage of the unarmed worshipper, Abdul Aziz, who chased the gunman away and in doing so saved so many lives.
"The Imams of the two mosques, Fouda and Zikrullah, advocating for the families of the victims, including urging that the bodies be released in accordance with the Muslim faith.
"We witness the Muslim surgeon who saved the life of a four year old girl wounded in the attack and the Christchurch residents who came to the aid of worshippers.
"We depict worshipper, Farid Ahmed, who very publicly forgave his wife’s murderer. We depict how refugees, fleeing violence, were forced to come to terms with the cruel irony that violence claimed them in one of the safest places on earth.
"And we witness the actions of Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, during this remarkable week. How, an hour after hearing of the attack, she instinctively penned those three simple but unforgettable words of love and solidarity, "They are us". And in this week, she achieved in six days what countries like the United States have failed to do in decades - Banning assault rifles and all weapons of war used in the attack."