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Kazakhs Ready 'Borat' Riposte

Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen in his "Borat" character.
Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen in his "Borat" character.
A director in Kazakhstan, which banned the sardonic film "Borat" because of its unflattering depiction of that country and fictional Kazakh "traditions," is reportedly planning a celluloid rejoinder called "My Brother, Borat."

Says AFP:

The film -- which centres on the travels of an American Borat superfan who arrives in Kazakhstan expecting a post-Soviet wasteland but finds instead a prosperous petro-state -- will combat negative stereotypes, the director said.

"We want to ride on the wave of success of Borat, to take advantage of this popular image in the West to show people the real Kazakhstan, not Baron Cohen's Kazakhstan," Rakishev told Kazakh tabloid Kazakhstanskaya Pravda.

The full title of Sacha Baron Cohen's mock documentary from 2006 is "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan."

MTV, which helped boost "Borat Sagdiyev's" fame by inviting him to host its annual European music awards, once described the character as the "sixth most-famous man in Kazakhstan."

Pop critics insist that Baron Cohen's real target -- in that and other films -- is woefully ignorant Westerners.

But Kazakh authorities were not amused. First they blocked Baron Cohen's website, earning a reprimand from Reporters Without Borders. (The film was also banned in Russia.) Then they threatened legal action, prompting the Jewish comic to respond in character that he "fully support[s] my government's position to sue this Jew."

And finally, in an interview with RFE/RL, Kazakhstan questioned his sanity (it was unclear whether Baron Cohen's or Borat's):

Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Mukhtar Karibay put the objections this way to RFE/RL's Kazakh Service on 4 November: "Yes, I heard about that guy once...last year or the year before last. He has nothing to do with Kazakhstan. He is a citizen of a foreign country. Our embassies officially protested his statements then. Afterwards it was found out that he was not a Kazakhstani. And then all talks about him withered. I believe it was established that the person had some psychological disorders. Well, since he has mental problems, there is no need to pay attention to that person and to act officially on the ministry's behalf. I am sure it is not the case for any official to react now. There are different people, you know. For instance, there are people, who run out to the center of the stadium naked during soccer matches. That is just a similar case."

Astana eventually calmed down. A daughter of the Kazakh president and near-überleader-for-life, Nursultan Nazarbaev, even accused countrymen of doing more damage through their prickly reactions than Baron Cohen's character could ever inflict.

There has been no public comment on filmmaker Rakishev's new project from the English-born comedian himself, who shot to fame and fortune turning a mirror on Western society through brutal comic depictions of a would-be British hip-hopper, an effeminate Austrian, and the bungling Kazakh wunderjournalist Borat.

But something tells me the publicity-hungry comedian who essentially put Kazakhstan on the map for a whole lot of Western youngsters won't mind a bit.

-- Andy Heil

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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