The Uzbek government has told musicians, film stars and directors to help bring in the cotton harvest or risk blacklisting, it's reported.
Several actors told the Uzbek Service of US-run Radio Liberty that they got a call from their employers - the state cinema company Uzbekkino - to this effect, and stage actors were also told to head to the cotton fields of Tashkent Region. "They were pretty firm," says one film actor. "They put us on buses, drove us out to the fields and said 'pick 30 kg [66 pounds] each by lunchtime, and don't let us down'. They made it clear that anyone who failed to go would miss out when it comes to casting and awards."
The story has been widely picked up in Central Asian and Uzbek emigre media, but not in the country itself, where strict censorship prevents criticism of the authorities. Local newspapers have nonetheless featured reports of farms "inviting artistes" to come and help out, Liberty adds.