Oliver Dawe, Mike Kelland
Chris Sinclair, Amanda Reid, David Long, Riki Gooch
A year is spent tracking the recovery of the New Zealand mosque shooting survivor, Turkish Kiwi, Temel Ataçocuğu
- Nine Bullets -a Survivors Story was originally distributed by Stuff NZ as a 7 part web series. These short documentaries were then assembled into ‘Mosque Attack,” a 50 minute documentary, which can be watched here.-
March 2019. New Zealand, a sleepy little country at bottom of the Pacific Ocean is subjected to an anti-Islam mosque attack. At the Al Noor Mosque in the southern City of Christchurch, 50 worshipers die and similar numbers are injured at Friday prayers.
Mosque worshiper Temel heard gunshots. He turned to lock eyes with a gunman and saw a puff of smoke from the rifle and felt a bullet hit his teeth. It was the first of nine bullets to tear through his body.
Somehow, Temel walked from the mosque unaided. “ Am I alive or dead?” he asked. Temel believes his survival is a miracle.
This is the story of Temel’s Atacocugu’s year in recovery from both the physical and the mental trauma of the New Zealand mosque attack. It is a story of defiance, pilgrimage and healing
Mosque Attack also observes New Zealand’s reaction to the shootings. New Zealand’s youngest, and still untested, female head of government, Prime Minister Jacinda Adern, addressed the country. Of the victims, she wrote: "They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us, is not. He has no place in New Zealand … I implore you: speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them.” In the days after the shootings, tens of thousands of New Zealanders gathered in the streets: “We are them and they are us” was being shouted across the land.
Temel’s mother and sister arrive from Turkey. And so, begins months of a fragile and slow recovery. He endures countless surgeries, depression and survivor guilt. ‘Why didn’t I run at the gunman?’ The Saudi Government pays for the victims of the Christchurch attacks to attend the Haj, in Mecca. Here, Temel records his momentous and life changing experiences. He now sees his faith as a central issue in his well-bring. Another trip, this time to his homeland, Fethiye, in Southwest Turkey. The locals constantly ask Temel about his experiences. Local consensus is disbelief that anyone could have survived such a horrific event.
Throughout the year, alongside Temel, the viewer will meet a man who endears all around him, with an irrepressible warmth and candour. He is frank about his moods, from depression to an optimism about his future life in New Zealand. Temel journeys back to his new country, well on the way to recovery. He even returns to the Al Noor Mosque and once again prays alongside other survivors. Temel has survived and he thanks Allah. He has been given the gift of life and now he must live and act purposely with that knowledge.
Mosque Attack is a celebration of a spirit unbroken, which brings a message to us all. Temel Ataçocuğu proves that such an act of terror fails. In fact, it only strengthens the resolve of a community’s right to worship their god and live in peace. That’s what his year of recovery teaches us.