The director of They Are Us says he hopes the film about the Christchurch mosque attacks will be made, but production has been put on hold.
Some families of the victims say the film should be put on hold for many years, and say its too soon to make a film about the attacks.
In a statement, Andrew Niccol said the leaked script was not final, and he was saddened by the pain caused to families of the victims.
However, he said he still wanted the controversial project to go ahead.
Rose Byrne was to play NZ PM Jacinda Ardern.
Development of the film was on hold, until more thorough consultation with the Muslim community in Christchurch could be done, he said.
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Our hope for this film, conceived by producer Ayman Jamal, which will take years to complete, is that it will honour the survivors, and the lives lost, he said.
Kyron Gosse, whose aunt was killed at the Linwood Islamic Centre, said he was happy the film was being on hold but questioned whether it needed to be made at all.
From what I have read of the leaked script, there is no need for this movie to ever be made, he said.
If the film was to focus on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, he said it should wait until she left office. And, any film about the attacks should focus on the victims, he said.
Kyron Gosse has sent an open letter to Hollywood actress Rose Byrne to refuse the role as Jacinda Ardern in the proposed film They Are Us. (File photo)
Gosse wrote an open letter about They Are Us, urging filmmakers to wait a minimum of 10 years. On Friday, he said he stood by those statements:
It is a kick in the guts to see the Hollywood style approach being taken, and it loses all authenticity.
Farisha Razak, who lost her father Ashraf Ali, said snippets from the leaked script read like an “American gangster movie”.
Those involved in the project had no idea what her family been through, she said.
“The 24 hours waiting to find out where your dad is, hoping that he made it. Praying to Allah that he kept him safe and he is with someones family waiting for this situation to be over. Hoping that he will walk through the door and say he is fine.”
But it was apparent they only cared about money, Razak said.
“I did support your movie at the beginning because I thought you were showing how brave everyone has been, but from the leaked script, you have made a mockery everything.”
A publicist for Niccol declined Stuffs request to interview him. This was the first public statement the Kiwi director has made about this project. He has repeatedly declined requests for comment since going public with the project in June.
The initial reaction to the project was highly critical. It was announced via American media outlets, revealing that Australian actor Rose Byrne was to play Ardern.
New Zealand writer and director Andrew Niccol has issued a statement about They Are Us.
Critics said the project sounded too heavily focused on Ardern, rather than the victims and their families. The prime minister agreed, saying the topic remains very raw and the story should focus on someone else.
Niccol said he hoped the film would inspire the world, and show the strength of Canterburys Muslim community and New Zealand.
It is also our intention to show the world how a nation can respond to such a tragedy. New Zealands embrace of its Muslim community is a testament to the strength of human solitary, he said.
We are committed to ensuring that the voices of the affected Muslim community, and the voices of the wider community, will be heard before moving forward.
Jamal had interviewed imams from the two mosques before the project went public. The Muslim Association of Canterbury acknowledged he had spoken with them, and later set up a forum for the Muslim community to share views on the project.
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images
Director Ayman Jamal is a producer on They Are Us.
In emails, the producers said they wanted the project to be a love letter to Jacinda Ardern and the two mosques. However, when the script leaked this month, families from the mosque attacks said its details were worse than the terrorists livestream.
American production house Film Nation started discussions with the New Zealand Film Commission in May 2019, to make this film. Those discussions started less than two months after March 15.
The National Islamic Youth Association (NIYA) said in a statement it welcomed the news, and thanked the more than 75,000 people who signed a petition calling for the project to be shut down.
“While the project has been put ‘on hold’, we urge Andrew Niccol and Ayman Jamal to listen to the victim and wider Muslim community of New Zealand and cancel the project. Given the recency of March 15, it is clear that such a film will cause more harm than good.
“We want to extend this message to others considering similar projects. The voices, well-being, lived experiences and autonomy of victims should be central and of paramount importance to any process or project to do with March 15, 2019.”
Other production teams started planning for at least two other projects about the Christchurch mosque attacks.

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