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Firemen, school students get free movie treats for Anwar propaganda film as claims of box office flop grow

It comes amid claims by producers who accuse cinema operators of sabotage following poor turnouts.

Staff Writers
3 minute read
Screenshots from a clip showing PKR's William Leong in a cinema hall in Rawang, Selangor urging the audience to chant 'reformasi'.
Screenshots from a clip showing PKR's William Leong in a cinema hall in Rawang, Selangor urging the audience to chant 'reformasi'.

The government has reached out to school students and firefighters with free screenings of a propaganda film depicting Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim as a graft fighter, days after producers accuse cinema operators of sabotaging the movie following a poor response from the public.

This came on the back of claims by producers that the movie has been attracting full houses in cinemas nationwide, alongside a campaign by supporters of the prime minister to get crowds to fill up cinema halls by offering free tickets.

The latest instalment in the campaign takes the form of a letter to Form Six students of a secondary school in Putrajaya, inviting them to join Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek to watch the movie "Anwar: The Untold Story", an Indonesian-made movie set in the 1990s when Anwar was the deputy prime minister under Dr Mahathir Mohamad's government.

MalaysiaNow's attempts to reach Fadhlina and her ministry officials for comments on the letter have been futile.

A memo from the director of the Fire and Rescue Department urging staff and officers to attend a free screening of 'Anwar: The Untold Story', and (right) a letter to students of a school in Putrajaya inviting them to join Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek to watch the film.

Meanwhile, a short clip making the rounds shows PKR's Selayang MP William Leong addressing the audience before the movie screening at a cinema in Rawang, Selangor, while repeatedly urging them to join in shouts of "reformasi", Anwar's battlecry after he was sacked by Mahathir in 1998 over allegations of immorality.

On May 20, staff and officials of the Fire and Rescue Department also attended a free screening, joined by the secretary-general of the local government development ministry Noor Azman Taib and other top officials.

The staff of the department was invited through a memo from the office of the director, urging them to attend a screening at a cinema in IOI City Mall in Putrajaya.

The aggressive promotion of the movie prompted many social media users to post remarks laced with sarcasm, one of which questioned why there were still empty seats in a cinema hall despite tickets being "sold out".

Last week, producers claimed the film brought in RM1 million on its first day of screening, only to later say that it was not given screening slots as requested by cinema operators.

The claim drew strong criticism, with many saying it showed the film was not well received despite much fanfare by supporters of Anwar.

The movie's release comes as the political temperature is expected to heat up in the run-up to polls in six states, where the ruling coalitions of Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Barisan Nasional hope to gain back the critical Malay support they lost in the general election last year.

Government leaders and PH supporters have been promoting the movie, with Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil urging the public to watch the film that he said left him "all teary-eyed". 

The film's executive producer, Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, had cited surveys saying that people have 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".

One independent artist said the film was filled with bad script and acting.

"Cringey, bad dialogues. Actors were in dire need of a dialect coach," said Neddo Khan on Twitter, referring to the Indonesian cast who dominate the film, adding that there was a need for a film that "truly reflects the Anwar-Mahathir relationship".