After years of bitterness, bans, and musical chaos, Kazakhstan has come to embrace its most unsavory "export."
Kazakh Foreign Minister Erzhan Qazykhanov on April 23 credited Sacha Baron Cohen's taboo-smashing 2006 film "Borat" for helping increase international tourism to his country.
Interfax and Tengrinews.kz
quoted Qazykhanov as saying that visas for foreigners to visit Kazakhstan have increased tenfold since the Hollywood film was released six years ago.
Particularly given the tenuousness of any cause-effect argument, it's a remarkable turnaround by Astana. The film -- in which a fictitious goofball TV reporter hailing from Kazakhstan and visiting America offends in just about every way you can imagine -- was banned from Kazakh cinemas.
Local filmmakers even threatened a rebuttal
to Cohen's sendup, which was officially titled "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
The film returned to international headlines last month when officials at a Kuwaiti shooting tournament played "Borat's" mock anthem
instead of the Kazakh national anthem to honor a gold-medal athlete.
If you can't beat 'em, co-opt 'em.
But one wonders whether they'd ever be as forgiving if Cohen's latest character, "The Dictator
," were from, say, Shamalgan