EFESydney, Australia

As an online petition grew against the making of a film focusing on the response of New Zealand's prime minister to the Christchurch terror attack, the leader on Saturday said hers was not the story to be told.

"While it's for the community to speak for themselves, it's my view March 15 [2019] remains very raw for New Zealand," Jacinda Ardern said, according to national media outlets, including public broadcaster Radio New Zealand.

"There are plenty of stories from March 15 that could be told, but I don't consider mine to be one of them."

The film, titled "They Are Us," is reportedly to star Australian actress Rose Byrne as the prime minister, and is written and directed by New Zealand filmmaker Andrew Niccol.

He told industry magazine Deadline that the film was being made in consultation with several members of the mosques affected by the attacks and that "'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."

Ardern added she "had nothing to do with the film in any form and wasn't consulted on it."

The angle of the film has generated controversy in the country, with Muslim community leaders, survivors and activists saying that in concentrating on the response of Ardern in the wake of the terror attacks on two mosques that killed 51 people, it puts the victims and survivors in the background.

The attacks were carried out and livestreamed on social media by caucasian Australian Brenton Tarrant, who was sentenced to life in prison.

A petition was launched by the National Islamic Youth Association on Change.org on Friday night, and by Saturday afternoon had gathered over 27,700 signatures.

It campaigns for the film to be canceled "as it side-lines the victims and survivors and instead centers the response of a white woman."

"The film centers white voices and therefore will continue to white-wash the horrific violence perpetrated against Muslim communities," it said, adding that "the NZ Muslim community was not properly consulted (if at all)."

Islamic Women's Council spokesperson Anjum Rahman said Friday: "We would prefer to see a film that centers on the victims of the attacks and their families.”

Writer and activist Guled Mire described the film as "insensitive," saying it feeds into the "white saviour mentality complex," according to TVNZ. EFE

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