CJ Exclusive: Uzbekistan Eyes a Bright Future with Film & TV Rebates Set to Rise to 30%

By Mark Law Hitchings | October 5, 2023 3:57 pm PDT

Uzbekistan’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Said Rustamov, says that new tax incentives announced at the Tashkent International Film Festival (Sept 29-Oct 3 2023) will put Uzbekistan on course to become a world leader in film and television production.

Mr Rustamov said, “Uzbekistan is investing heavily in film, television, and the performing arts. Our studio and production facilities are some of the finest in the world, but we continue to invest in cinema because we have a rich cinematic history dating back more than a century, from which to draw influence and expertise.”

Senior government figures had earlier confirmed that plans to increase tax rebates from 20% to 30% had been submitted to the legislature for approval. When implemented, the tax incentives will propel Uzbekistan’s offer to film and television producers to the apex of international league tables. 

The Central Asian nation’s long and storied history of cinema production began under the Russian tsars and continued into the Soviet and Russian Federal eras. However, the Uzbek Government has had something of a hard time persuading foreign productions from India, China, the UK, United States, and Europe to venture into Uzbekistan under the current 20% regime, sitting, as it does, some 5% below competitors with better developed production infrastructures.

Although California, New York and the UK all offer 25% tax relief for qualifying productions, the landscape could be set for a radical upheaval, with Uzbekistan planning to up the ante with an offering of ultra-modern studio services and post-production suites in tandem with the 30% rebate, with at least one supersized sound stage planned to be solely dedicated to ‘historical epics’. An opening investment of USD $100 million will soon be deposited to begin construction of the studios this year, with the head of UzbekFilm revealing  that plans are also afoot to build a ‘cinema city’ that will be entirely tax exempt.

The Uzbek government is keen to broadcast to foreign film and television producers just what an undiscovered frontier the nation is as a filming and production location, with much of the ancient architecture and its surrounding terrain unexplored by location managers and scouts. Littered with stunning and expertly preserved Timurid-period architecture dating from the 14th to 16th centuries, many of Uzbekistan’s ancient sites are characterised by complex blue and turquoise tilework, with the colours symbolising the mystical depths of the universe. 

A Promising Future

Once at the heart of the fabled Silk Road, a 4,000-mile trade route connecting China with the Mediterranean, Tashkent is now at the heart of a country primed to erupt with foreign investment, with cash inflow increasing tenfold in the last six years.

Said Rustmanov, Uzbekistan’s Ambassador to the UK

“Our outlook is global and forward thinking,” Mr Rustmanov said. “Whilst we nurture tomorrow’s artists and creatives, we also honour and preserve our millennia-old heritage so that it may be enjoyed for millennia to come.”

The sector has been resurgent since Firdavs Abdukhalikov took over supervision of UzbekKino, the national cinema agency, in 2016. He and a dedicated team have spent years reviving the department, with their mammoth task complicated by decades of neglect under Soviet leadership. However, his efforts are starting to bear fruit, particularly since his appointment to the position of Director-General of the Tashkent International Film Festival, with its 15th iteration recently welcoming a host of talent from across the globe.

Mr Rustmanov said, “Uzbekistan is truly unique: a warm, friendly, and welcoming nation, rich with history, culture, and stunning locations. As the world changes, Uzbekistan is at the forefront of developing our creative sectors to offer an experience to film and television producers that is unmatched.”

Uzbekistan’s President, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, included aid for the film and television industries in his 2021 re-election pitch to voters, meaning there are expectations amongst media businesses that the country will undergo a marked improvement in foreign footfall, international distribution, and inward investment. 

With this being his final interview before completing his productive stint in London, Ambassador Rustmanov’s colleagues and commentators have noted that he has been a particularly effective builder of relationships in the creative industries and has long been a staunch proponent of developing strong ties with the UK and US during his time in the capital. 

Mr Rustamov previously told Diplomat Magazine, “Uzbekistan is open for business and is positioned in the centre of the huge Central Asia market. We have the most diversified economy in our region, in addition to human capital, and Uzbekistan is highly focused on strengthening its relationship with the UK.”

Mark Law Hitchings