CJ Exclusive: Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Bids to Be Crowned Capital of Central Asia’s Film Industry

By Mark Law Hitchings | November 1, 2023 1:53 am PDT
Firdavs Abdukhalikov, Director-General of UzbekFilm, Uzbekistan’s national film agency, has announced new investments in the nation’s film industry

Firdavs Abdukhalikov, Director-General of UzbekFilm, Uzbekistan’s national film agency, announced a raft of new investments in the nation’s film industry, with the opening round of funding set to begin the positioning of Tashkent as the region’s capital of film and television production.  

Mr Abdukhalikov, who also chairs the Tashkent International Film Festival, said a US $30 million deal had been inked with the Danmon Group to supply state-of-the-art studio technology. The agreement struck with the Danish broadcast and media solutions provider will see equipment for broadcast television, film, and commercial productions delivered to Tashkent and Samarkand to stock an ambitious new studio building program. 

“Before 2016, the cinema industry in Uzbekistan was not developed at all,” Mr Abdukhalikov said. “But this is Uzbekistan’s new era, and our president announced a new programme for cinema development. Not only cinema development, but the development of every sector in the country.”

Under the supervision of Abdukhalikov, the freshly invigorated national studio has produced a string of critically acclaimed films, including “Scorpion” (2018), “Hot Bread” (2019), “To The Ends Of The Earth” (2019), ”2000 Songs Of Farida” (2020), and “I’m Not A Terrorist” (2021).

“We have achieved the complete reconstruction of the UzbekFilm studios, which were totally destroyed. Everything was abandoned and neglected. If you look inside now, there is a big TV studio, it’s brand new.”

Firdavs Abdukhalikov, Director-General, UzbekFilm

“We are also planning to construct a cinema city, which would not be taxed at all, like a freeport,” Mr Abdukhalikov continued. “So, with the rebate system and the tax-free system, we think that they are going to give us fantastic results.”  

The turnaround under Abdukhalikov’s stewardship has been profound, with UzbekFilm’s output making a marked contribution to Uzbekistan’s economic renaissance and acting as a cultural masthead to attract a growing influx of foreign direct investment. Jumping an impressive 37% in 2019 from 10.7% the year before, FDI contributed $9.3 billion to the Uzbek economy pre-Covid. However, the government is looking to book even more impressive gains, with this opening salvo of capital forming part of an ambitious package to attract $120 billion of investment over the next three years.

Sophie Ibbotson, Uzbekistan’s National Tourism Ambassador to the UK, said, “To attract investment, Uzbekistan is building its international brand. That requires investing in the arts so Uzbekistanis can have the skills they need to tell their own stories and sell their own country through film, television, music, fashion, social media, and scholarship.”

With production space currently at a premium in Uzbekistan’s capital, Mr Abdukhalikov said a deal was in the works to secure a further US $100 million investment to build studios in Tashkent and Samarkand to service the growing national film and television markets, as well as providing studio space for foreign productions making use of Uzbekistan’s relatively unexplored locations. 

With a population of 1.4 million, Tashkent is the largest city in the region. Other nations in Central Asia, which includes Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, have lagged behind Uzbekistan for inward investment, presenting a huge opportunity to a nation keen to utilise its resources to take a more central position on the world stage and shake off defunct Soviet ties. 

The studios are slated to begin construction this year.

Mark Law Hitchings