New Zealand’s prime minister has distanced herself from plans for a film that would focus on her response to the Christchurch mosque attacks.
US-based FilmNation Entertainment is in the early stages of producing a film called They Are Us – the title is a line from one of Jacinda Ardern’s speeches in the days after the attacks.
But the plans have been criticised by many New Zealanders, some unhappy about reports that the film will focus on the prime minister, leaving the victims in the background.
Others have said the 15 March 2019 tragedy is still too raw and that Hollywood should not be able to profit from the suffering of those who are still recovering or grieving.
Ms Ardern told news website Stuff: “While it’s for the community to speak for themselves, it’s my view 15 March remains very raw for New Zealand.
“There are plenty of stories from 15 March that could be told, but I don’t consider mine to be one of them.”
She also confirmed she “had nothing to do with the film in any form and wasn’t consulted on it”.
Fifty-one people were killed when Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant opened fire on worshippers in the two mosques.
He was jailed for life without parole last August for the 51 murders, 40 attempted murders and a charge of terrorism.
But in the days after the attacks, New Zealanders were praised for uniting in compassion for the victims and their community, led by Ms Ardern.
She was also lauded for her successful efforts to ban the deadliest types of semi-automatic weapons in the country.
According to Hollywood news outlet Deadline, which broke news of the film, Ms Ardern will be played by Australian actress Rose Byrne.
The film will be made in New Zealand and directed by New Zealand filmmaker Andrew Niccol.
But more than 23,500 people have signed a petition calling for the movie to be abandoned and the hashtag #TheyAreUsShutdown was trending on Twitter in New Zealand on Friday.
Those behind the petition said the film’s focus on white voices “will continue to white-wash the horrific violence perpetrated against Muslim communities”.
Niccol “has not experienced racism or Islamophobia” so he should not “lead and profit” from a “story that is not his to tell”, they added.
Deadline reported that the film’s script was developed in consultation with several members of the mosques who were affected by the tragedy but this has been disputed by members of New Zealand’s Muslim community.
Sondos Qur’aan, co-chair of the National Islamic Youth Association, said the movie “is insensitive and would only serve to invalidate the experiences of survivors and victims of the attack and cannot be supported by our organisation”.
Fellow co-chair Haris Murtaza added: “The shuhadaa’ (martyrs), their families, and the wider victim community deserve to be thoroughly consulted and at the heart of any projects that relate to the 15 March terror attacks.
“Entities and individuals should not seek to commercialise or profit from a tragedy that befell our community, neither should such an atrocity be sensationalised.”
Mohamed Hassan, who hosts podcast The Guest House, which explored how Muslims made sense of the attacks, told Radio NZ: “In its essence, (the film) is a story about an act of white supremacy that is centred around white voices, white feelings and white heroism. The irony is nauseating. The lack of self-awareness is profound.”
Sky News sought comment from FilmNation early on Saturday but Niccol earlier told Deadline: “They Are Us is not so much about the attack but the response to the attack [and] how an unprecedented act of hate was overcome by an outpouring of love and support.
“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.”
Taylor Swift crowned Time magazine’s Person of the Year
Taylor Swift has been named Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2023.
The music star, 33, told the publication: “This is the proudest and happiest I’ve ever felt, and the most creatively fulfilled and free I’ve ever been.
“Ultimately, we can convolute it all we want, or try to overcomplicate it, but there’s only one question: Are you not entertained?”
The Shake It Off singer beat a range of finalists to take the title, including Barbie, former US president Donald Trump’s prosecutors and the King.
It tops off a record-breaking year for Swift, and she has collected several other end-of-year awards.
People Magazine named her 2023’s most intriguing person of the year while Forbes awarded her the title of the world’s most powerful woman in media and entertainment.
The 12-time Grammy winner also became Spotify’s most-streamed artist globally, with her songs being streamed more than 26 billion times.
She recently scored her seventh Grammy nomination for song of the year – overtaking Sir Paul McCartney and Lionel Richie.
Her Eras Tour is set to gross more than $1bn while the film version was the highest grossing concert film ever.
She also re-released new versions of her third and fifth albums Speak Now and 1989, which was sparked by a feud with music executive Scooter Braun over ownership of Swift’s masters.
Former Time Person of the Year winners in recent years include Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, Elon Musk and Greta Thunberg.
Time’s editor-in-chief Sam Jacobs said on NBC’s Today programme: “Picking one person who represents the eight billion people on the planet is no easy task.
“We picked a choice that represents joy. Someone who’s bringing light to the world,” he said.
“She was like weather, she was everywhere.”
Time awards the title to “the individual, group, or concept that has had the most influence on the world throughout the previous 12 months.”
US actors’ union SAG-AFTRA hails ‘enormous victory’ as it ratifies deal that ended strike
The US actors’ union has said the deal that ended its months-long strike was an “enormous victory” after it was ratified last night.
About 78% of SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) members voted in favour of the contract, with a turnout of around 38%.
The walkout lasted 118 days and brought Hollywood to a standstill, halting productions on film and television shows.
The strike ended on 9 November when a tentative agreement was reached between the union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers (AMPTP). It began on 14 July, with pay disputes and the threat of artificial intelligence being the main issues.
SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said: “Today we close out one of the most important chapters in recent entertainment industry history.
“This contract is an enormous victory for working performers, and it marks the dawning of a new era for the industry. Getting to this point was truly a collective effort.
“With the ratification of this agreement, SAG-AFTRA members will receive unprecedented wage escalation, significantly improved streaming compensation, and the first-ever crucial protections around the use of artificial intelligence technology.”
The deal now specifies compensation has to equate to the amount of work that would have been done by the actor, while companies have to get the consent of performers to use their facial features as part of the creation of any synthetic elements.
The actors’ strike came at the same time as the Writers Guild of America action, which was resolved in September, as the union agreed to a deal with studio bosses after 146 days on the picket line.
Denny Laine: Paul McCartney pays tribute after Moody Blues singer and Wings guitarist dies aged 79
Denny Laine, the lead singer of English rock band the Moody Blues and guitarist with Wings, has died aged 79.
The co-founder of both Wings, which also featured Sir Paul McCartney, and The Moody Blues “passed away peacefully” following a battle with lung disease.
In an Instagram statement, Elizabeth Hines wrote that it was an “absolute honour and privilege to not only be his wife, but to care for him during his illness and vulnerability”.
She wrote: “My darling husband passed away peacefully early this morning.
“I was at his bedside, holding his hand as I played his favourite Christmas songs for him. He’s been singing Christmas songs the past few weeks and I continued to play Christmas songs while he’s been in ICU on a ventilator this past week.
“He and I both believed he would overcome his health setbacks and return to the rehabilitation centre and eventually home.
“Unfortunately, his lung disease, Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD), is unpredictable and aggressive; each infection weakened and damaged his lungs. He fought every day. He was so strong and brave, never complained.
“All he wanted was to be home with me and his pet kitty, Charley, playing his gypsy guitar.”
Sir Paul posted on Instagram to pay tribute to Laine, saying he was “very saddened” by his ex-bandmates passing.
He said: “I have many fond memories of my time with Denny: from the early days when The Beatles toured with the Moody Blues.
“Our two bands had a lot of respect for each other and a lot of fun together. Denny joined Wings at the outset. He was an outstanding vocalist and guitar player.
“His most famous performance is probably ‘Go Now’, an old Bessie Banks song which he would sing brilliantly. He and I wrote some songs together, the most successful being ‘Mull of Kintyre’ which was a big hit in the Seventies.
“We had drifted apart, but in recent years managed to re-establish our friendship and share memories of our times together.
“Denny was a great talent with a fine sense of humour and was always ready to help other people. He will be missed by all his fans and remembered with great fondness by his friends. I send my condolences and best wishes to his wife, Elizabeth and family.
“Peace and love Denny. It was a pleasure to know you. We are all going to miss you.”
Ms Hines also wrote that the support from the public “brought him to tears”, and said her “world will never be the same”.
She added: “Denny was an amazingly wonderful person, so loving and sweet to me.
“He made my days colourful, fun and full of life-just like him. Thank you sweetie for loving me, for all the laughter, friendship, fun and for asking me to be your wife. I will love you forever.
“Please give Denny’s friends and family the time and privacy needed as we grieve our loss.”
Born Brian Hines in Tyseley, Birmingham, in October 1944, Laine had been a member of Birmingham-formed The Moody Blues during the 1960s.
He quit the band shorty after releasing The Magnificent Moodies in 1965 over a conflict with their record label.
He then joined Sir Paul and Linda McCartney in the Wings line-up in 1971 before departing the band in the 1980s.
Laine was also part of the World Classic Rockers, a touring act which had Donovan, Spencer Davis and founding member of The Eagles Randy Meisner play at various times.
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