Tajikistan: After Being Banned, ‘The Dictator’ Movie Goes Viral

Less than a month after being banned in Tajikistan, Sacha Baron Cohen's latest spoof blockbuster, ‘The Dictator‘, has become one of the most searched for movies in the country's DVD stores. Tajik blogger Harsavor (Donkey Rider) writes [ru] that in the Tajik capital Dushanbe, people shopping for pirate DVDs these days most often ask for ‘The Dictator’.

The movie was banned in late May, officially for not fitting the “local mentality” or for not having a good enough “profit potential”.

Tajik netizens are unanimous in suggesting that ‘The Dictator’ owes its sudden popularity in Tajikistan to the official ban. After a Tajik news website reported [ru] about the authorities confiscating ‘The Dictator’ pirate DVDs from sellers, one reader comments [ru]:

чушь полнейшая…глупо изымать из проката нелицензированные диски просто потому, что после искусственно разведенного ажиотажа желание посмотреть этот фильм и все ниже перечисленные будет еще сильнее, а интернет еще ни кто не отменял. фильмы вышедшие в мировой прокат буквально через неделю появляются на торрентах пусть и в плохом качестве их можно с легкостью скачать – самому посмотреть и друзьям дать […]. запретный плод всегда сладок и приятен!

Utter nonsense. Confiscating pirate DVDs is stupid because the ban has pumped up people's interest in the movie. People will now have a stronger desire to watch the film and all the other movies that are banned. And there is the internet. After a movie is shown anywhere in the world, it gets uploaded onto torrent sites within a week after the first showing, albeit in a bad quality. These movies can be easily downloaded for people to watch and share with friends […]. The forbidden fruit is always sweet and pleasant

One Facebook user, Abdumannon Sheraliev, writes [tj] on the ‘Platforma‘, a Tajik discussion forum on news and politics in the country:

Ачаб масъулине мо дорем! Хар хидмате ба давлат мехоханд кунанд ба хидмати хирсона табдил меёбад. Хамин падарлаънати “Диктатор”-ро агар манъ намекарданд, шояд касе намоиш хам намедод. Агар намоиш медоданд, шояд 0,1 фоизи мардум тамошо мекард […]. Акнун чунон карданд, ки онро хама мехоханд бинанд.

Our authorities are funny! Whatever they do in serving the country they turn into a disservice. If [‘The Dictator’] had not been banner, nobody would have probably screened it anyway. And even if it were screened, perhaps only 0.1 percent of the population would have watched it […]. And now everyone wants to watch the movie.

Another Facebook user, Jasur Ashurov, comments [ru], also on the ‘Platforma':

Глупо! В Таджикистане всего 4 кинотеатра, где показывают лицензионное кино: 2 в Душанбе, 1 в Курган-Тюбе и 1 в Худжанде. Ну сколько человек посмотрели бы этот фильм в четырех кинотеатрах? Тысяча человек максимум. А теперь о фильме говорят все и все хотят его посмотреть. Наверняка теперь “Диктатор” станет самым ходовым фильмом в местах продажи пиратских DVD и самым скачиваемым фильмом в Таджикистане.

This is stupid! There are only 4 cinemas showing licensed movies in Tajikistan: 2 of them are in Dushanbe, one in Kurgan-Tube, and 1 in Khujand. How many people would have watched the movie in four cinemas? A thousand at most. And now everyone is discussing the movie and everyone wants to watch it. Perhaps ‘The Dictator’ will now become the most popular movie among pirate DVD sellers, and the moview that is most often downloaded from the internet.

Tajik blogger Salimi Ayoubzod analyzes international media reports covering the ban of the movie in Tajikistan. Concerned about the negative publicity for the country caused by the ban, he writes [tj]:

Ман ёд надорам, ки дар ду-се соли охир дар ягон мавзӯи марбут ба Тоҷикистон расонаҳои ҷаҳон ин гуна таваҷҷӯҳ […] нишон дода бошанд.

I cannot recall any other issue related to Tajikistan that has generated so much attention from international media within the last two to three years

Although the officials would not admit it, ‘The Dictator’ has most likely been banned because they were afraid that Tajiks who watch the movie will draw parallels between the film's General Aladeen, the despotic ruler of the north African rogue state Wadia, and their own autocratic and election-rigging ruler who has been in office since 1992. The movie has also been banned in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.


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