A new film about the 2019 Christchurch terror attack has sparked an online backlash, with people concerned it will focus too heavily on New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

They Are Us will recount the actions taken by the leader following the murder of 51 Muslims by white supremacist Brenton Tarrant.

It “will tell the story of how Ardern rallied New Zealand following the terror attacks on two mosques in 2019 with a message of compassion and unity, and helped push through a ban of assault rifles,” according to Hollywood Reporter.

The title of the movie comes from the words Ardern spoke in a landmark address soon after the attacks. She was praised around the world for her response at the time.

However, news that Ardern, 40, will be played by Hollywood superstar Rose Byrne has prompted a flood of criticism across social media.

Twitter users insisted that the biopic should centre on the victims of the massacre, rather than shine a spotlight on the politician.

Here’s what they had to say:

Ardern has distanced herself from the movie, and issued a statement via a spokesperson saying “the prime minister and the government have no involvement in the film”.

Deadline reported that New Zealander Andrew Niccol would write and direct the project and that the script was developed in consultation with several members of the mosques affected by the tragedy.

Niccol said the film wasn’t so much about the attacks but more the response.

“The film addresses our common humanity, which is why I think it will speak to people around the world,” Niccol told Deadline. “It is an example of how we should respond when there’s an attack on our fellow human beings.”

Byrne’s agents and FilmNation did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The report said the project would be filmed in New Zealand but did not say when.

The Christchurch attack triggered gun reform in New Zealand and an inquiry into the massacre to ensure Muslims would be safe in the country.

While there was praise for these interventions, there was also criticism that the government had ignored warnings that hate crimes against Muslims were escalating, and now that a film will show Ardern in a wholly positive light, people are outraged.

Writer and community advocate Guled Mire told the Guardian the film’s premise was “completely insensitive”.

He said that while the film-makers may have consulted with some members of the Muslim community, many had no idea the news was coming. “It’s hit all of us out of the blue,” he said. “Many victims themselves haven’t even heard of this.”

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