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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

'Buy Bust' director's Twitter controversy comes back to haunt him ahead of film's release in UAE

The movie had rave reviews following its NY festival premiere, but Erik Matti's remarks against Philippines president Duterte and overseas Filipino workers sparked online backlash a year ago

Anne Curtis in BuyBust Reality Entertainment / Kobal / REX / Shutterstock
Anne Curtis in BuyBust Reality Entertainment / Kobal / REX / Shutterstock

Tweets are sent in a second, and often written in the heat of the moment, but these short statements can come back and haunt a career in significant ways - as seen late last month when Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn was fired from the franchise over tweets from 2008 to 2011 that joked about subjects like rape and pedophilia.

The latest director with potential controversy hiding on his Twitter timeline is Filipino filmmaker Erik Matti. His film Buy Bust, lands in cinemas in the UAE on Thursday following its Manila premiere tonight, but the director is facing a renewed social media outrage over year-old tweets that criticise overseas Filipino workers.

The film is a high-octane thriller starring Anne Curtis as a drugs squad agent in Manila, and it attracted rave reviews after its world premiere at the New York Asian Film Festival last month. Variety called Matti’s movie “an outstanding genre outing,” while there was high praise indeed from Screen Daily, which described the movie as “one of the most blistering action pictures since Mad Max: Fury Road.”

The controversial tweets

But a year ago, and again this week, some Twitter users are calling for a boycott of Buy Bust as well as Matti's upcoming movie adaptation of the “Filipina Wonder Woman” Darna, following tweets from last year that have resurfaced in which Matti criticised Duterte voters, as well as Filipinos who work overseas.

Director Matti is an outspoken opponent of The Philippines’ populist President Rodrigo Duterte, who has declared martial law in parts of the archipelago and been accused of endorsing extra-judicial killings as part of his war on drugs.

“In case you haven’t read my tweets before, I’ll say it again: ‘Sa lahat ng bumoto, put*ng ina nyo!’ Isa pa: ‘Put*ng ina nyo!’” (To all who voted! You are ***”) Matti said.

Screenshot of Erik Matti's tweet
Screenshot of Erik Matti's tweet

At the time, Twitter lit up with calls for a boycott of Matti’s films. Twitter user Mannix T said: “@Erik Matti Boycott Darna, Buy Bust, On the Job 2.” Fellow Tweeter Bai! Speaks agreed, tweeting: “Pagkatapos tayong muharin ni @ErikMatti boycott natin ang On the Job 2, Buy Bust, Darna” (Erik Matta has cursed us, so now let’s boycott On the Job 2, Buy Bust, Darna)

Matti was in further hot water last year for turning his attention to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), many of whom supported Duterte according to polls: a Pulse Asia poll from last year found that 78% of OFWs appreciated the way Duterte was handling key issues.

The director tweeted: “OFWs kung wala kayongh malasakit sa Pinsa was na lang bumoto. Ansama puilil ******! Wala silang paki kasi di sila nakatira ditto! #Dugong” (OFWs if you don’t care for The Philippines don’t vote. Bad choice! They don’t care because they don’t live here anymore. #seacreatures)

Screenshot of Erik Matti's tweet
Screenshot of Erik Matti's tweet

There was also backlash from Filipinos at home and abroad over this sentiment, with one Twitter user MAIDEN WORLD stating: "This is tweet is a career ender. Good luck sir..."

Screenshot of replies to Erik Matti's tweet
Screenshot of replies to Erik Matti's tweet

The controversy seems to have died down since last summer when the #boycotterikmatti movement peaked. A few dozen posts with the #boycotterikmatti and #boycottbuybust hashtags were still doing the rounds on Twitter on Wednesday, ahead of the movie’s Manila premiere, but, perhaps aided by a combination of the passage of time and excellent reviews, the furor seems to have largely subsided.

At least one OFW in the UAE we spoke to won’t be watching the film this weekend: Bella, a teaching assistant living in Dubai said: “The film looks great, I wish I could go and see it, but I just can’t agree with Matti’s politics.”

Much of the local Filipino population we spoke to seemed completely unaware of the controversy, however, as exemplified by Rose, who works for a bank in Abu Dhabi: “I’ve heard of the film and I know it’s supposed to be good, but I don’t think I’ll have time to see it,” she said. “I didn’t know about any of the politics though. I think most Filipinas here don’t really get much news from back home. We hear about the film, but that’s all.”

Lovely, an Abu Dhabi waitress, was similarly oblivious to the drama surrounding Matti: "I don't know anything about the director," she admitted. "But I'll definitely go and see it. I love Anne Curtis. I follow her on Twitter."

Shan was to the point too, tweeting: “Never underestimate the power of that 16M voters of PRRD! Tingnan na lang natin next movie mo. @Lisa Soberano we will boycott it.”

Screenshot of call to boycott Erik Matti's movies
Screenshot of call to boycott Erik Matti's movies

We will have to wait for the box office results to see if the boycott had any real effect.

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Read more:

Filipina star Nadine Lustre reacts to Frida Kahlo appropriation controversy

Pia Wurtzbach: 'I want to tell the story of Filipino diaspora'

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