I’m not a fortune teller. I don’t have a five-year plan. I can’t tell you what I’ll eat for dinner tonight, let alone anything I’ll be doing in two years’ time.
But I can tell you right now with a very strong degree of confidence I will not be paying $21 to go to They Are Us, the film that apparently focuses on Jacinda Ardern’s response to the Christchurch massacre.
I have nothing personal against the filmmaker. Andrew Niccol has actually written or directed two of my all-time favourite films. I think The Truman Show is genius. I love Gattaca.
They Are Us, on the other hand, makes me squirm.
It’s not that I’m fundamentally opposed to a film about the events in Christchurch. I actually saw it as an inevitability. After all, we have a film about Aramoana. There’s a Hollywood film about the Anders Breivik massacre in Norway.
But if the production of this film had actually considered the meaning behind its title, They Are Us, we wouldn’t have seen so many people affected by the massacre respond in disgust. There is a more sensitive and tasteful way to go about these things. The filmmakers say they’ve sought scripting input from a few of those affected, but clearly many of those in what is a pretty small Muslim community here have been caught completely by surprise. It takes a lot of nerve to call a film ‘They Are Us’ when you clearly haven’t consulted sufficiently with the ‘They’ you’re talking about.
There’s another thing. They Are Us. If the filmmakers believed those words, there’s no way Jacinda Ardern would be the central character.
Here’s a terrible tragedy committed by a white supremacist. Instead of focusing on the authorities’ limited interest in white supremacy in the lead up to the massacre, instead of focusing on those who lost their lives, or the heroics of those in the mosque who tried to stop the gunman, we focus on Jacinda Ardern.
She did a good job in the heat of the crisis. But I’m sorry, she isn’t the hero of this story. And as comforting as she might have been to the survivors and victims of the shootings and to the New Zealand public at large, her actions in those days could never have been enough to heal the pain of those who clearly had been let down grievously by the wider government she represents.
You can just imagine the scene now: the actress Rose Byrne, standing alone, an exhausted and broken expression on her face, staring into a mirror. The music builds... orchestral strings. She looks down and picks up a simple scarf, wrapping it around her head.
‘What are you doing?’ asks one her advisors.
‘They are us.’ Says Jacinda Ardern. Eurgh.
Honestly, that whole ‘They Are Us’ phrase really bothers me. I know many disagree with me and I’m not gonna’ fight the fight again, but if we really meant ‘They Are Us,’ the Crusaders would have changed their name. If we really meant ‘They Are Us,’ then we might not have planned massacre anniversary commemorations, knowing that most Muslims don’t mark anniversaries.
If they were us then we wouldn’t us the word ‘They’ at all.
But here’s an easy one. An opportunity to live up to those words in a small way. If the Muslim community in Christchurch, the survivors of the attacks and the families of those who died, don’t support this film, then They Are Us. I’ll save my $21.