Lifestyle & Belief

'The Dictator,' Sacha Baron Cohen spoof, banned in Tajikistan (VIDEO)


Sacha Baron Cohen in character as Admiral General Omar Aladeen, at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival in France.


Andrew H. Walker

People of Tajikistan, The Dictator will not be coming to a screen near you.

The movie, which stars Sacha Baron Cohen as extravagant autocrat Admiral General Omar Aladeen, has been refused a license for distribution in the Central Asian country, Eurasianet reported.

The reasons for the ban remain murky: Russian new agency RIA Novosti said the film had not undergone the state cinema company's "mandatory licensing and censoring procedures," while the head of a Tajik distribution company told Agence France Presse that the nation's cinema simply "do not have space to show it."

Most observers suspect that the real reason, however, has more to do with what The Guardian cited one film distributor as saying: that the spoof is not compatible with Tajikistan's "mentality."

"It's incorrect because we have a different mentality," Daler Davlatov of Tatan – reportedly the only company to distribute new foreign films in Tajikistan – told a local news site. "We're not going to give The Dictator a premiere because of these considerations."

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Tajikistan is classed as "not free" by human rights NGO Freedom House, which reports that earlier this month, the country's state-run communications agency blocked access to websites that published an article critical of President Emomali Rahmon.

Rahmon has run the country since 1992, and was described in leaked US diplomat cables as heading a government "characterized by cronyism and corruption."

It's an interesting coincidence, then, that Tajikistan's watchdogs should take exception to a movie described as "the heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed."

But outlawing the movie is unlikely to stop Tajik film fans seeing it, according to Eurasianet: "Knowing the booming bootleg business in [the capital] Dushanbe," the news site writes, "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."

In the meantime, here's the trailer: