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A record-breaking historical epic brushes off controversy to fight for independence on Netflix

People don't seem to have paid much heed to the backlash.

mat kilau
via Studio Kembara Sdn

Any historical epic runs the risk of inciting controversy depending on how the story is told, with the real-world events at the center of the narrative often being interpreted differently by the various parties involved. In the case of Mat Kilau, the backlash didn’t stop the blockbuster 19th Century tale from breaking box office records.

The retelling of the titular Malay warrior’s rise to spearhead the fight against the British colonialists who came to Pahang in 1890 evidently struck a chord with local audiences seeing as director Syamsul Yusof’s sprawling story ended up becoming the highest-grossing theatrical release of all-time in Malaysia.

mat kilau
via Studio Kembara Sdn

However, the depiction of Chinese and Indian nationals erring on the side of villainy ruffled more than a few feathers, while Sikh groups claimed that showing non-Muslims in a negative light could generate or heighten religious and racial tensions, with prominent human rights activist Kua Kia Soong one of Mat Kilau‘s most vocal detractors.

In the end, the overwhelming commercial success of the film makes it clear that the bad buzz didn’t affect the end product’s standing in the eyes of paying customers, and that’s now extended onto streaming after Mat Kilau skyrocketed on the Netflix charts to become one of the platform’s top-performing titles.

As per FlixPatrol, Mat Kilau has appeared in the Top 10 in an impressive 31 countries over the last few days, and it could even be in with a shot of reaching the global Top 20 if it carries on this current trajectory, which would be a mightily impressive return for a lesser-known foreign-language flick.

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Scott Campbell

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