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.”
Avatar is back after 13 years – but will the sequel live up to the original?
Thirteen years on, James Cameron’s mega-budget Avatar sequel opens in cinemas next week, hoping to illicit that same appetite in cinemagoers for the 3D magic of the first.
While the medium has fallen out of favour, it remains Cameron’s preferred choice of viewing.
But not only will cinemagoers need 3D glasses – coming in at a whopping three hours and 10 minutes, it also requires stamina.
With production costs totalling around £285m (up there with the most expensive films ever made), to make it worth Disney’s while, the epic has to at least end up making it into the top five highest grossing movies of all time.
To do so, it needs audiences to want to see it more than once, which perhaps isn’t too unreasonable when you factor in that a huge amount of the money generated in both of Cameron’s previous blockbusters – Titanic and the first Avatar – came from cinemagoers paying to see the film’s multiple times.
But in a cost of living crisis do we have the cash now?
The film sees Sam Worthington return to the role of Na’vi leader Jake Sully and is rooted around the family he now has with warrior Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana.
“The movie’s mighty,” Worthington told Sky News.
“It’s a mighty film, and very heart-wrenching.
“We all went through a pandemic together as a whole world, and that’s a connection that we all have to each other… and it’s about us being connected as individuals – I think that’s very important to relate to and really take to heart.”
Thanks to the magic of motion capture, Sigourney Weaver returns, playing Jake Sulley’s adoptive teenage daughter.
“It’s an experience so immersive and also takes your breath away,” she told Sky News, adding that she will need to see the film once more to get the full experience from it.
The sequel also features Kate Winslet in the cast as the matriarch of an ocean-bound clan.
For the Oscar-winning actress it was a chance to work, once again, with the filmmaker who put her on the Titanic:
“He (Cameron) asked and I said yes. Why on earth would I not?,” she told Sky News.
“Also, my children would never have allowed me to. They were like… just do it.”
Cameron, who overtook his own movie, Titanic, with Avatar as the highest grossing film ever in 2009, has already set the wheels in motion for the next films in the franchise – and spent much of the last decade preparing.
“It was a lot of time spent working on the script for four movies, production design for four movies, a bunch of new technology we needed,” he said.
“And then we started at full tilt five years ago… and then we shot two movies, actually part of the third one.”
Cameron also describes his new sci-fi epic as a “love letter to the oceans”.
“A lot of people [in 2009] picked up on the messaging around the rainforest and around the plight of indigenous cultures around the world.
“We have that in spades now because nothing has really got that much better – in the meantime, this one is my love letter to the oceans and a cry for people everywhere to be responsible for guardianship of the oceans.”
Right now the Na’vi’s survival might just depend on what happens off-screen more than on.
Avatar: The Way of Water is in cinemas on 16 December.
Stephen Bear: Reality TV star on trial accused of sharing garden sex tape on OnlyFans
A reality TV star has appeared in court accused of sharing a garden sex tape on the online subscription platform OnlyFans.
Stephen Bear is accused of voyeurism and two counts of disclosing private, sexual photographs and films.
The 32-year-old, who won Celebrity Big Brother in 2016, came to Chelmsford Crown Court wearing a pink suit and fur coat. He denies the charges.
The trial heard Bear had sex with his ex-girlfriend Georgia Harrison in his garden before sharing footage of it – caught on his CCTV cameras – on OnlyFans.
Ms Harrison, who has appeared on several reality shows including The Only Way Is Essex (TOWIE), waved her right to anonymity in relation to the case.
Jacqueline Carey KC, opening the prosecution case, said: “In August 2020 the complainant Georgia Harrison met up with her former boyfriend Stephen Bear.
“They had some lunch and had some drinks and ended up back at his house in Loughton (in Essex).
“They engaged in consensual sexual intercourse in his garden.
“What she didn’t know but he did was Mr Bear had CCTV cameras in his garden that recorded them having sex.”
The barrister said that later that day Bear told Ms Harrison and showed her the footage.
“She told him never to send it to anyone and made it plain how upset she would be if he did,” said Ms Carey.
She went on to say that Bear sent the footage to someone on WhatsApp that night “despite knowing how upset she would be if the footage were to get out”.
She told the court that Bear later uploaded the footage “either himself or had it uploaded to OnlyFans and profited financially”.
Ms Carey added: “The defendant was effectively selling the footage to get money”.
OnlyFans is a platform known for adult content, which enables fans to pay creators for their photos and videos.
Bear, of Loughton in Essex, arrived at court with his current girlfriend Jessica Smith, in a chauffeur-driven white Rolls Royce.
He wore a pastel pink suit, fuchsia tie, black fur coat and dark sunglasses.
The alleged offences are said to have taken place in August 2020 and in November 2020.
Bear was arrested in January 2021 at Heathrow Airport following a trip to Dubai, and charged in May 2021.
The case had originally been scheduled for February this year but was pushed back.
Bear won Celebrity Big Brother in 2016 after finding fame on Ex On The Beach. He went on to co-present just Tattoo Of Us with Charlotte Crosby on MTV in 2017, and has appeared on Celebs Go Dating for Channel 4 and Eating With My Ex for BBC Three.
His former girlfriend, Ms Harrison, 27, has appeared on shows such as Love Island and Olivia Meets Her Match.
The trial, which is expected to last at least four days, continues.
Kirstie Alley: Cheers star dies after short illness
Kirstie Alley – who shot to fame after appearing in the US sitcom Cheers – has died at the age of 71.
In a statement, her children said: “We are sad to inform you that our incredible, fierce and loving mother has passed away after a short battle with cancer, only recently discovered.
“She was surrounded by her closest family and fought with great strength, leaving us with a certainty of her never-ending joy of living and whatever adventures lie ahead.”
Alley was best loved for her role as Rebecca Howe in the long-running US comedy Cheers, in which she appeared as the on-off love interest of Boston bar owner Sam, played by Ted Danson.
She also starred alongside John Travolta in the successful 1989 romantic comedy Look Who’s Talking.
The actor paid tribute to her on social media. “Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I’ve ever had. I love you Kirstie,” he wrote on Instagram, alongside a photo of the late star. “I know we will see each other again.”
From 1997 to 2000 she had her own sitcom on US network NBC, Veronica’s Closet.
Later, in 2018 she took part in UK Celebrity Big Brother, in which she finished as runner-up.
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