“Dear HBO—it’s a bit irresponsible to release a disaster movie when we’re still in the middle of the disaster. Regards, The U.K.”
On Friday, HBO revealed the trailer for its upcoming film Brexit, sparking controversy over its portrayal of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union in 2016.
Benedict Cumberbatch is starring in the new film as “the man behind Brexit,” Dominic Cummings.
Cummings was the Campaign Director for Vote Leave from its creation in October 2015, and is credited with coming up with the slogan “Take back control.”
In the trailer, Cummings appears to stir racial resentment, asking, “Is it immigration? You can be honest. Is it race? Which countries don’t you like?”—while writing “turkey” on a door covered in notes and explaining that the campaign was about a desire to “return to a time when we knew our place.”
The trailer references the advanced, questionable data tactics the campaign employed, spending more than 3 million on ads that targeted specific groups of people on Facebook—mainly those who had never voted before.
It also depicts Cummings discussing “hacking the electoral system” and building a social media strategy that “will re-stack the odds in our favor.”
Many Brits have expressed their dismay on Twitter, questioning the credibility and timing of the movie’s release.
Carole Cadwalladr, a journalist who has conducted extensive investigations into Vote Leave, compared it to the United Kingdom (UK) making a film about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election as it unfolds.
Others have pointed out that a new movie on the subject is irrelevant since there are still ongoing investigations uncovering details of the tactics behind the divisive campaign.
“Dear HBO—it’s a bit irresponsible to release a disaster movie when we’re still in the middle of the disaster. Regards, The U.K. #BrexitHBO,” one user tweeted.
Speculations that the film is highlighting Cummings’ political savvy are also seen as offensive, considering the perceived harmful ramifications of his campaign.
According to HBO, Brexit will explore the 2016 Vote Leave campaign that “goes behind the scenes, revealing the personalities, strategies and feuds of the Leave and Remain campaigns. The tactics employed by Vote Leave during the data-driven campaign swayed a historically silent voting bloc that would ultimately decide the outcome of the referendum, as well as affecting future elections around the world.”
Directed by Toby Haynes, Brexit is set to premiere on HBO and the United Kingdom’s Channel 4 on January 19.