Uzbek television broadcasts controversial Netflix film ‘6 Underground’ to Turkmenistan
Viewers in eastern Turkmenistan this week could watch the big-budget action movie – about an operation to murder the dictator of fictional “Turgistan” – using broadcasts from Uzbekistan.
Rights groups say Turkmenistan is one of the world’s most repressive states.
The movie, which is dominated by numerous car crashes and large explosions, cost a reported US$150 million to make.
The programming choice by Uzbekistan’s Sevimli TV might have been in reaction to the controversial, violent movie’s popularity in Central Asia. But it might have been an attempt to anger the Turkmen regime, which has tried to ban the movie by director Michael Bay.
The movie’s six foreign insurgents initiate their coup by hacking state-controlled television to broadcast the tyrant’s brother calling for a popular uprising.
The leader of Turgistan has the same first name, Rovach, as Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s favourite stallion.
Turkmenistan has called 6 Underground western propaganda and a US effort to undermine national sovereignty.
The movie depicts a US tech billionaire who leads a handpicked team of six specialists who have all been declared dead. The vigilante leader, in something of a Bruce Wayne role, plots the violent overthrow of Turgistan’s dictator, who has too many similarities to Berdymukhamedov for Ashgabat’s liking.
Netflix, most social media networks and major western news websites are blocked in Turkmenistan.
The film is an underground hit at Turkmenistan’s DVD rental shops. The country’s slow internet means movies are rarely streamed and the movie has been downloaded onto USB drives.
Several rental stores have been closed to halt the movie’s distribution.
Plainclothes agents are reportedly asking to rent 6 Underground but when the order is completed, officers have been producing their police badges.
Rental stores have been fined up to 200 manats (US$57). Gas-rich Turkmenistan’s average monthly salary is approximately 800 manats.
Sevimli TV can be seen in the Turkmen districts of Dargan Ata, Sayat and Khojambaz.
Citizens in Central Asia’s autocracies sometimes use conventional television antennas to watch foreign broadcasts.
Netflix said in excess of 83 million viewers had seen 6 Underground since its December release.
The film has led to Turkmen lectures in schools about the dangers of US propaganda and allegations of an attempt to destabilise Turkmenistan through Netflix.
Too close for comfort: Rovach, Turgistan’s fictional dictator. Picture credit: Vimeo