Jason Lei Howden, the director of the upcoming film Guns Akimbo, got into deep water after blaming two black writers for the attempted suicide of Dilara Elbir, the editor-in-chief of the Much Ado About Cinema film review website.
After private conversations were published showing Elbir uttering a racial slur, she found herself at the center of controversy.
Following the publication of the DMs, the majority of the writers who contributed to Much Ado About Cinema publicly left, forcing Elbir to publish a series of videos on Twitter in which she expressed her desire to self-harm.
The clips drew a lot of attention, with people including Moonlight director Barry Jenkins contacting Elbir to express his support.
Elbir’s friends were eventually able to contact local police and establish that she was safe at the hospital.
Howden comes into play here. After word of Elbir’s plight circulated, the filmmaker resorted to Twitter to accuse Valerie Complex and DarkSkyLady of tormenting him.
At first, he went after “woke cyberbullies,” focusing on a group of authors who had departed Much Ado About Cinema. Howden then went on a scathing tirade against those he claimed had pushed Elbir into trying suicide, even posting the Twitter identities of authors who had quit her publication.
“I deleted the post but still believe the ‘writers’ are bad individuals,” Howden said after removing the tweet listing the writers’ Twitter handles.
Elbir’s messages had been released with malicious intent, according to Howden, and her use of the slur was in jest. Valerie Complex responded to Howden on Twitter, saying that using the slur, especially in a funny context, should never be permitted.
Valerie was labeled a hypocrite by Howden, who demanded that she reveal her own private messages.
DarkSkyLady, the other critic targeted by Howden, wrote an article titled “Guns Akimbo Was a Movie of Interest… Until” regarding the director’s defense of the usage of the slur phrase at this time. The filmmaker reportedly responded by calling DarkSkyLady’s essay “a troll article” on the official Guns Akimbo Twitter account.
Then he went on to tweet about Valerie Complex and DarkSkyLady from his personal Twitter account. “Dilara Elbir from Much Ado About Cinema was tormented and attempted suicide by these toxic, filthy “film writers.” Keep their names in mind “According to Howden,
Howden’s caustic messages sparked outrage, prompting him to apologize before deleting his Twitter account entirely. He wrote, “Hey everybody.” “To clarify, my posts were just intended to raise awareness about bullying. Dilara’s DM is something I oppose. Racism cannot be tolerated in any circumstance.
I admire the work of @DarkSkyLady and @ValerieComplex, but I don’t think they should be bullied. After a long period of being bullied, my mother committed suicide, which I was unaware of until it was too late.
It’s excruciating to watch others do the same thing, and it’s completely unnecessary. #GunsAkimbo was supposed to be about lighting a fire under internet bullying. Ironic. I apologize if I offended anyone; that was not my intention.”
Guns Akimbo is slated to hit theaters on Friday, and it’s safe to guess that this isn’t the kind of buzz the distributor was hoping for.
Several critics have said that they will not cover the picture, including RogerEbert.com writer Robert Daniels, who with the help of long-time editor Brian Tallerico removed his review of the film.
Howden is a relatively new director, with Deathgasm, a well-received horror-comedy, being his most recent release.
This will be the director’s first production with an A-list celebrity, so expectations were high for this action-comedy about “online bullying.” However, the director’s Twitter attack will poison any message the film had regarding the subject.