SYDNEY – The filming of a sequel to the blockbuster movie Avatar is set to resume soon in New Zealand, after the government granted special access permission to the crew, allowing them to bypass entry restrictions, leading to criticism from many New Zealanders on Tuesday.
The 56-member crew, led by director James Cameron, who arrived the country on a private plane during the weekend, are required to complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine period inside their hotels before starting to shoot.
Jon Landau, one of the producers of the film, posted on social media a picture of him and Cameron wearing masks and face shields after their arrival in the country.
Avatar 2 began filming in mid-2017, and last year they went to New Zealand to shoot several parts of the film, which has a budget of $250 million.
The filming team, which has also been simultaneously working on Avatar 3, was scheduled to return to the Oceanic country at the beginning of this year, but the shooting got suspended due to the COVID-19 crisis.
New Zealand closed its borders in March and enforced a lockdown for several weeks. Recently, it has been gradually easing the restrictions after managing to contain the coronavirus that has infected more than 1,150 people and caused 22 deaths in the country.
Last month, the New Zealand Film Commission considered it safe to resume television productions and film shootings.
Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford granted special permission to the film crew from Los Angeles to enter the country by putting them under the “other essential worker” category, bypassing a ban on the entry of foreigners.
This exception has drawn sharp criticism from many citizens in New Zealand, which has been one of the most successful in checking the spread of the coronavirus.
Social networking site Twitter witnessed several posts by users expressing their disapproval of the government’s decision to grant an exception.
“Today we have two new clusters to report, the Aotea Square Protest cluster, and the Avatar 2 hotel cluster,” commented a user under the handle @KiwiSAHD, taking a dig at the recent government move.
On the other hand, despite the delay in shooting, the film crew look to wrap up the shoot within its original deadline and have the movie ready for release by December 2021, almost 12 years after the release of the original film.