Free tickets have been offered on social media to fill up cinemas nationwide for screenings of the recently released movie on Anwar Ibrahim, in a move seen as ramping up support for the prime minister's six-month-old government ahead of elections in a number of critical states this year.
Supporters have taken to their social media pages to dangle free tickets for the public to watch "Anwar: The Untold Story", with one pro-Anwar political writer making no secret of the political undertones in his offer.
"First come, first served. Those aged 25 and below are encouraged," said Mohd Sayuti Omar in a Facebook post believed to be aimed at young and first-time voters whose support at the upcoming state elections would be critical to stopping a repeat of the trend at the general election last year where younger voters were thought to have embraced Perikatan Nasional (PN) in most Malay-majority constituencies.
Checks on social media revealed that similar offers had been put up, telling the public to snap up "a limited number" of free tickets to watch the Indonesian-made movie.
Government leaders have also been promoting the movie, with Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil urging the public to watch the film which captures the years before Anwar's dramatic exit in 1998 from then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad's government.
"Reliving the twists and turns of Anwar's journey in the movie made us all teary-eyed, especially so for his family members who watched it.
"I would recommend to my friends to go catch the movie’s first screening in the cinemas on May 18," Fahmi had said.
The film's executive producer, Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, had cited surveys in saying that people had been flocking to watch it at major cinemas in the Klang Valley, adding that some cinemas were "fully booked and reserved in advance" for screenings.
While government supporters gave rave reviews of the movie, critics have dismissed it as Anwar's propaganda, with vocal former Umno man Khairuddin Abu Hassan describing it as "useless" and "nauseating".
Another critic said the film was filled with with bad script and acting.
"Cringey, bad dialogue. Actors were in dire need of a dialect coach," said Neddo Khan on Twitter, referring to the Indonesian cast who dominate the film.
He also mocked repeated instances in the depicting Anwar as a politician who consistently fought against corruption.
"That 'consistent fight against corruption' in this film is 'mentioned so consistently' to the point of making us disgusted. It's a movie – you can illustrate it without shoving it in our faces through cringey dialogue," Neddo said.
He also said there was a need for a film that "truly reflects the Anwar-Mahathir relationship".
Anwar was finance minister and deputy prime minister before Mahathir sacked him on grounds of immorality in 1998.
After leading anti-Mahathir street protests, Anwar was charged with sodomy and jailed for six years before his release in 2004.
In 2015, he was again sent to prison for a similar offence before being granted a royal pardon in 2018 during Mahathir's second stint as prime minister.