Kyrgyz Moviegoers Push Local Blockbuster with Social Media
It’s not often that a Kyrgyz film wins praise abroad, as an epic biopic has in recent weeks. Proud Internet users in Kyrgyzstan are seeking to ensure that the recent burst of international acclaim endures with an online campaign to rank the new film highly at the online movie database IMDB.com.
“Kurmanjan Datka” is reportedly the most expensive Kyrgyz movie ever, and the first feature-length film commissioned by Kyrgyzstan’s perennially impoverished government. The Montreal Gazette called the film a “haunting poetic piece” that “transports you to another world.”
Two weeks after opening in cinemas in Bishkek and Osh, the historical epic – about a queen who united Kyrgyz tribes in the face of Russian aggression in the 19th century before succumbing to Moscow – has garnered more than 1,200 10-star ratings (out of 10 stars) at IMDB. Local social media users believe most of the votes come from Kyrgyzstanis who hope their ratings will help the movie attract prominent American distribution companies, and positive publicity for their remote country.
Journalist and blogger Ulugbek Akishev used Facebook to push his idea to organize a voting campaign on the day the film premiered in Bishkek, August 31. He believes a high IMDB rating would draw the interest of big distribution companies, help “Kurmanjan Datka” go global, and recoup the $1.5 million the government spent on production.
Akishev’s call quickly went viral in Kyrgyzstan. One enthusiast even published short instructional video on YouTube for people unfamiliar with the process of rating films on IMDB.
The film’s producers took Akishev’s appeal seriously and released two videos featuring the film’s stars calling for Kyrgyzstanis’ support. Director Sadyk Sher Niyaz believes that 25,000 IMDB 10-star votes will give him a chance “to speak on equal terms” with any major distributor, he wrote on Facebook, though he admits the film needs promotion at international festivals to go global.
Though many Kyrgyzstanis are proud of the epic, production was accompanied by financial scandal when opposition activist Adil Turdukulov accused the director of excessive spending. Yet after the biopic was released in cinemas, even critics praised the work and its effort to unite their fractured nation—much as Kurmanjan Datka did.