Nicolas Cage criticized by human rights group for propping up 'brutal' Kazakh dictator


Photos of Nicolas Cage dressed in traditional, nomadic garb in Astana, Kazakhstan attending the Eurasia Film Festival have gone viral with several memes on the Internet that drop the actor into famous historical photos, including one that has him standing with Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley at the White House.

But it's no laughing matter, says a human rights group taking Cage to task for ginning up positive press coverage for an authoritarian regime.

During his 26-year rule over Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbayev shut down independent news outlets and arrested critics, including journalists and a theater director, according to a report from the Human Rights Foundation.

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Internet freaks out over Nicolas Cage
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Internet freaks out over Nicolas Cage
In other news, Nicolas Cage is in Kazakhstan. https://t.co/ceAk0ktgqy
I kinda feel like all of America is Nicholas Cage in this photo. How did we get here? What is all this Russia shit… https://t.co/MPFjKSTigS
Nicholas Cage in Kazakhstan in our traditional attire lmao https://t.co/MAAWpB8skC
National Treasure 4 (2017) Nicholas Cage discovers that the real treasure was his friends and family who stuck by his side through it all
I thought I'd already seen enough of #NicholasCage in #Kazakhstan but then one genius made this. #NicholasBi https://t.co/1vRzHxk8t0
Nicholas Cage in Kazakhstan is the picture you didn't know you wanted but you need. https://t.co/G9VNa1tdBF
Nic Cage is in Kazakhstan doing a François Hollande in traditional garb but so far shying from a full Seagal, which… https://t.co/69buxWY29g
Nicolas Cage in Kazakhstan. With new law on political service, won't be eligible for Presidency. https://t.co/ZGoZ2c6vA4
Unbeknownst to all of us, Nic Cage is living in the darkest of dark timelines https://t.co/5JQ3Squvzc
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In 2011, government forces killed more than a dozen peaceful protesters during the Zhanaozen massacre, notes HRF, the group famous for smuggling copies of The Interview into North Korea to embarrass Kim Jong Un.

Despite the reported violations of human rights, Cage appeared at the festival as a VIP guest, leading some to believe he either endorses the leadership or allowed himself to be used as a public-relations pawn.

"I would be pleased to participate in some film project on the territory of Kazakhstan," Cage told journalists while attending the festival. "I enjoyed the architecture of your capital. What I saw reminded me of an old black-and-white film that depicted the future."

All of this was much too much for HRF president Thor Halvorssen, who is set to issue a press release Wednesday to journalists worldwide criticizing Cage.

"His glowing review gave Kazakhstan's dictatorship much-needed PR, and his photos boosted the regime's visibility on the international stage," said Halvorssen.

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Nicolas Cage and Alice Kim
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Nicolas Cage and Alice Kim
DEAUVILLE, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 02: Nicolas Cage and his wife Alice Kim arrive at the premiere of the movie 'Joe' during the 39th Deauville American film festival on September 2, 2013 in Deauville, France. (Photo by Francois G. Durand/WireImage)
DEAUVILLE, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 02: Nicolas Cage and his wife Alice Kim arrive at the premiere of the movie 'Joe' during the 39th Deauville American film festival on September 2, 2013 in Deauville, France. (Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) La Biennale de Venezia, Italy. Filmpremiere JOE mit Nicolas Cage und seiner Frau. Alice Kim Cage am Red Carpet in Venedig. (Photo by Manfred Segerer/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
VENICE, ITALY - AUGUST 30: (EDITORS NOTE: This image was processed using digital filters) Actor Nicolas Cage and his wife Alice Kim attend 'Joe' Premiere during The 70th Venice International Film Festival at Sala Granden August 30, 2013 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Venturelli/WireImage)
US actor Nicolas Cage and his wife Alice Kim arrive for the screening of 'Joe' presented in competition at the 70th Venice Film Festival on August 30, 2013 at Venice Lido. AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
VENICE, ITALY - AUGUST 30: Actor Nicolas Cage and wife Alice Kim Cage attend the 'Joe' Premiere during The 70th Venice International Film Festival at Palazzo Del Cinema on August 30, 2013 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Danny Martindale/WireImage)
VENICE, ITALY - AUGUST 29: Nicolas Cage's wife Alice Kim and son Kal-El Cage attend day 2 of the 70th Venice International Film Festival on August 29, 2013 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Danny Martindale/FilmMagic)
VENICE, ITALY - AUGUST 30: Actor Nicolas Cage and his wife Alice Kim Cage attend the 'Joe' Premiere during The 70th Venice International Film Festival at Palazzo Del Cinema on August 30, 2013 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 17: Nicolas Cage and Alice Kim attend the UK Premiere of 'The Frozen Ground' at Vue West End on July 17, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 17: Alice Kim and Nicolas Cage attend the UK Premiere of 'The Frozen Ground' at Vue West End on July 17, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) Berlin International Film Festival 2013: actor Nicolas Cage and wife Alice Kim (Photo by Heerde/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 10: Actors Alice Kim and Nicolas Cage attend 'The Croods' premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater on March 10, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
VENICE, ITALY - AUGUST 31: Actor Nicolas Cage and Alice Kim attend Bungalow 8 & James Franco Venice Film Festival Premiere Party during the 70th Venice International Film Festival on August 31, 2013 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Luca Teuchmann/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 15: (EDITORS NOTE: Entertainment Online Subscriptions GLR Included) Nicolas Cage and Alice Kim attend 'The Croods' Premiere - BMW at the 63rd Berlinale International Film Festival at Berlinale Palast on February 15, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Franziska Krug/Getty Images for BMW)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 10: Actor Nicolas Cage and Alice Kim attend 'The Croods' premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater on March 10, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 15: Actor Nicolas Cage and wife Alice Kim attend 'The Croods' Premiere during the 63rd Berlinale International Film Festival at Berlinale Palast on February 15, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Luca Teuchmann/WireImage)
BEIJING - NOVEMBER 06: (CHINA OUT) American actor Nicolas Cage and his wife Alice Kim attend the launch of Montblanc's new watch on November 6, 2010 in Beijing, China. (Photo by VCG via Getty Images)
Alice Kim and actor Nicolas Cage (R) attend the Cinema Society & Amnesty International screening of 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' at the Tribeca Grand Hotel on July 7, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK - JULY 06: Alice Kim and actor Nicolas Cage pose for a photo on the red carpet at the premiere of 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' at the New Amsterdam Theatre on July 6, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
Actor Nicolas Cage (R) and Alice Kim Cage attend the 'Bad Lieutenant' Premiere After Party Hosted By Nicolas Cage held at Ultra during the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival on September 15, 2009 in Toronto, Canada.. (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 15: Actor Nicolas Cage (R) and Alice Kim Cage attend the 'Bad Lieutenant' Premiere After Party at Ultra on September 15, 2009 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 15: Acotor Nicolas Cage and Alice Kim Cage attend the 'Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans' Premiere held at the Ryerson Theatre during the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival on September 15, 2009 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Daniel Novisedlak/WireImage)
NEW YORK - JULY 06: Alice Kim and actor Nicolas Cage attend the premiere of 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' at the New Amsterdam Theatre on July 6, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)
Actor Nicolas Cage (R) and wife Alice Kim Cage attend the Handprint And Footprint Ceremony Honoring Producer Jerry Bruckheimer at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on May 17, 2010 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
TOKYO - DECEMBER 06: Actor Nicolas Cage and wife Alice Kim pose on the gold carpet of 'National Treasure' Japan Premiere at Roppongi Hills on December 6, 2007 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Jun Sato/WireImage)
(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) Nicolas Cage and wife Alice Kim (Photo by Barry King/WireImage)
Nicolas Cage and wife Alice Kim during Ghost Rider New York City Premiere - Red Carpet at Regal E-Walk in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 15: Actor Nicolas Cage and his wife Alice Kim attend the premiere of 'Ghost Rider' at Regal E-Walk Stadium 13 February 15, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
Actor Nicolas Cage and wife Alice Kim arrive to watch a mixed martial arts fight at the Los Angeles Coliseum, Saturday, June 2, 2007 presented by Fight Entertainment Group/Dynamite !! USA. (Photo by Bob Riha Jr/WireImage)
Alice Kim and Nicolas Cage during Versace Celebrates the Re-Opening of the Fifth Ave. Boutique at Versace Boutique in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Rabbani and Solimene Photography/WireImage)
Alice Kim, Nicolas Cage during Premiere of 'The Weatherman' at F.P. Rose Hall; Lincoln Center in New York, New York, United States. (Photo by Sylvain Gaboury/FilmMagic)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA: US actor Nicolas Cage (L) and his wife Alice Kim stand trackside shortly after the end of the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne's Albert Park circuit, 06 March 2005. Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella of Italy won the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, with Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello of Brazil second and Renault's Fernando Alonso of Spain in third. AFP PHOTO/POOL/David CALLOW (Photo credit should read DAVID CALLOW/AFP/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - DECEMBER 13: Nicolas Cage (L) and wife Alice Kim arrive at the red carpet event for the premiere of 'National Treasure' on December 13, 2004 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 6: Actor Nicolas Cage and his wife Alice Kim walk the grid before the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 6, 2005 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
LONDON - DECEMBER 5: Actor Nicolas Cage and his wife Alice Kim arrive at the UK film premiere of 'National Treasure' at Odeon West End on December 5, 2004 in London. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)
Alice Kim and Nicolas Cage (Photo by Lalo Yasky/WireImage)
Alice Kim, Nicolas Cage and Diane Kruger (Photo by Lalo Yasky/WireImage)
Nicolas Cage and wife Alice Kim during 'National Treasure' London Premiere at Odeon West End in London, Great Britain. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 19: (ITALY OUT, NY DAILY NEWS OUT, NY NEWSDAY OUT) Nicolas Cage and wife Alice Kim leave a midtown hotel for the airport November 19, 2004 in New York City. (Photos by Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images)
Alice Kim and Nicolas Cage during Gotham Magazine's 5th Anniversary Party at Cipriani's 23rd Street in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Lawrence Lucier/FilmMagic)
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The photo getting the most attention features a stoic Cage in a fancy, full-length coat and furry hat standing beside festival president Aiman Mussakhajaeva, though in Internet memes she's sometimes misidentified as First Lady Sara Nazarbayeva.

"Cage should be mortified that he participated in a whitewashing stunt for a murderous tyrant," Halvorssen said.

HRF is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes human rights globally. It got itself on Hollywood's radar when it floated copies of The Interview into North Korea via balloons after that country hacked into the computers of Sony Pictures in an attempt to prevent the release of the comedy since it is critical of the Kim regime.

"Cage and his publicity team could have determined from a quick online search that Kazakhstan is ruled by a brutal dictator," said HRF chief strategy officer Alex Gladstein.

"Celebrities could be playing a key role in the struggle for human rights, especially in places like Kazakhstan where artistic freedom is most under threat," Gladstein said. "To see role models like Nicolas Cage instead take the side of dictators is profoundly disappointing and a sign that human rights aren't a consideration for Hollywood stars."

THR reached out to Cage's reps for comment but had yet to hear back when this article was published.

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