Perhaps this one was a little too close to home in Dushanbe.
Movie theaters in Tajikistan -- a country ranked “not free” by Freedom House, where men are forced to shave their beards and the government spends millions on vanity projects while half the population lives on less than $2 a day -- will not be showing Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest film, “The Dictator.”
The spoof -- which follows an eccentric and brutal Gaddafi-style autocrat, Admiral-General Omar Aladeen (played by Cohen), on his misadventure-filled visit to New York -- conflicts with the “mentality” of the people, a film distributor in Dushanbe told Kloop.kg.
According to the news site, the film was to premiere on May 17 in the rest of Central Asia, save for Turkmenistan – whose parody-worthy late dictator, Saparmurat Niyazov (Turkmenbashi), could have easily provided some inspiration for Cohen.
Daler Davlatov, a sales manager from the company Tantan, identified by Kloop as the sole distributor of new foreign films in Tajikistan, told the news site that Tajikistan shouldn’t be compared with “Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and other countries […] because our mentality, as you know yourself, is different. That’s the only reason we didn’t include ‘The Dictator’ in the list of premieres.”
Other than Davlatov, movie industry insiders contacted by Kloop declined to comment on “The Dictator.”
This isn’t the first time a Central Asian state has been unhappy with a Cohen film. Authorities in Kazakhstan were not amused by his 2006 hit, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” which they banned.
But like “Borat,” “The Dictator” will probably make at least as much fun of Americans as of the loopy leaders represented by Cohen’s character.
Besides, knowing the booming bootleg business in Dushanbe, pirated copies of the film will likely appear soon at the city’s Green Bazaar, with customers snapping up a “forbidden fruit” that seems all the sweeter.