Controversial director Darryl Yap vigorously defended his coming film from critics who call out alleged misrepresentation of members of the Aeta indigenous group in the cast.
Yap recently came under fire anew for “Gluta” after entertainment page CinemaBravo first announced the film on June 2 with photos of the cast members.
The story follows an Aeta girl’s dream of being a “beauty titlist” despite the ridicule she received due to her dark skin.
Actress Ella Cruz, who was clearly not an Aeta, will be the main star. In the photos, her lighter skin was darkened and she was wearing a wig of curly hair.
The rest of cast members are Marco Gallo, Rose Van Ginkel, Juliana Parizcova Segovia, Jobelyn Marie Manuel, Loren Montemayor Marinas, Arlene Muhlach and Cristina Gonzalez.
It will premiere on July 2 via Vivamax.
Following the slew of criticisms against his casting choices, Yap clarified in a statement on June 4 that there are more Aetas who will be featured in his film.
He also attached a photo of him with them in his post.
“Opo, marami pong Aeta sa cast,” he said.
Yap later thanked an Aeta educator who became his consultant for the project.
“Nais kong magpasalamat kay Sir Samuel Maniago Balintay Jr. isang Aetang edukador at alagad ng sining na umalalay sa amin, kasama ng Iram Tribal Council, The Sambali Show at sa Ka Aeta Kata group— kayo ang puso ng pelikula. Hindi lang resource consultants, artista pa!” he said.
Some Filipinos previously questioned the casting of Cruz as an Aeta. They pointed out that there are good actors among the Aetas who could have been chosen for the role.
“Ella is a good actress and Director Yap is well-known good in his works but let’s be real here, might get a real Aeta so she can perfectly represent their tribes and might seek a little legit information about their culture. You don’t need to fake it give the real spotlight for the Aeta Mr. Yap,” one user said.
One Facebook user even accused Yap of cultural appropriation and applying black face over Cruz’s transformation to make her look like a member of the IP.
“Halos lahat ng movies niya mali ang pagkaka represent sa character from people who suffers mental health issue, yung ngongo na ginawang katatawanan yung disability niya, and now black face/ cultural appropriation. Jusko di nalang nag cast ng real Aeta para naman mas maging makabuluhan ang gusto niyang iparating sa mga viewers niya,” the user wrote.
Amid the initial backlash, Yap continued to encourage critics to first watch the new movie he directed.
“Payapa ang aking kalooban, gayun din ang aking mga artista at kasamahan sa produksyon, dahil alam naming isang pelikulang hindi nyo aakalaing nanggaling sa akin ang inyong mapapanood,” he said.