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Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan


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#81 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 03:16 PM

mrmando wrote:
: So is there much of a film industry in Kazakhstan?

Funny you should ask.

And I repeat: Ahem. Ahem. Ahem.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway, 06 March 2007 - 03:17 PM.


#82 sadida

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 08:19 PM

There's a long standing tradition of filmmaking here, and many great filmmakers. The national filmmaking company is called Kazakhfilm, and they are educating and putting out new films regularly. The country also hosts the Eurasia film festival, which could become the premiere film festival in this part of the world.

The issue I have with KZ filmmakers is that they aren't producing much in the way of modern films. The "Nomad" movie is a case in point - a movie about people centuries ago instead of life now. I am hoping to make films here that deal with the here and now, God willing.

#83 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 07 March 2007 - 06:00 AM

Borat seen as human rights victim by U.S. government
Fictional Kazakh TV reporter Borat has made an unexpected cameo appearance as a victim of censorship in a heavyweight annual human rights report issued by the State Department.
The 2006 report, released in Washington on Tuesday by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, criticized the real Kazakhstan, a vast oil-producing Central Asian state, for increased restrictions on freedom of speech and other abuses.
The State Department, which says Kazakhstan has no independent judiciary, also listed the murder last year of Kazakh opposition politician Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly, his bodyguard and driver as "unlawful deprivation of life."
The report cited Borat's loss of his Kazakh webpage www.borat.kz in late 2005 alongside court cases and limits on free speech faced by the few domestic media critical of Kazakhstan's long-serving President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
"The government deemed as offensive the content of a satirical site controlled by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen and revoked the .kz domain," the report said. . . .
Reuters, March 7

#84 monetmelly

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Posted 09 March 2007 - 01:56 PM

I really liked "Borat" for the purpose of a good laugh, but I really appreciate your perspective. I never really think about the film from the perspective of the Kazakh people, but because Kazakhstan was not very well known until this film, the majority of people will forever think about the Kazakh people in relation to this film. Now that Kazalhstan is on the map, it would be great if the nationals would make an effort to educate people on the real Kazakh culture.






QUOTE(sadida @ Mar 4 2007, 08:21 PM) View Post
*note: I have been a lurker here for a month or so, and thought you folks might like to hear the perspective on Borat from someone living in KZ.*



I remember one occasion during college when a touring theater company visited our campus, and offered a class on theater improvisation. My roommate and I volunteered to participate, and almost immediately launched into a routine that included some pretty juvenile “bathroom” humor. The instructor stopped us, and told us that use of “bathroom” humor is cheap, because it makes people laugh simply through shock. We sat down, embarrassed, armed with the understanding that good comedy was actually pretty difficult to do.

What reminded me of this story? This weekend I finally had the chance watch Borat! Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. If you somehow missed the marketing maelstrom for this film last fall, let me briefly explain. Sacha Baron Cohen, a British comedian, plays Borat Sagdiyev, a “Kazakh” journalist who tells people that he has traveled from Kazakhstan to the U.S. to make a documentary, and he fools real people into believing his story along the way. It’s like Candid Camera, but with the people fully aware that a camera is rolling.

When this film was released last fall, Cohen was aided in his marketing campaign by an unlikely source – Kazakh government officials who stumbled over themselves with righteous indignation trying to tell the world that Borat did not actually represent Kazakhstan. It was interesting to live in Kazakhstan when this happened, because I’d see officials jumping up to condemn Cohen, and then backpeddling to try and repair the damage their condemnation had caused.

As an expatriate working in the local arts community, I was invited to participate in a local television program that discussed how Kazakhstan should respond to Cohen, with one side wanting to sue him for defamation of national character, and the other side wanting to respond by not responding. It was all very interesting, but the bottom line was that the movie was not to be shown here in local theaters, and so most arguments were from a lack of first-hand knowledge of the film.


This weekend, I finally got my hands on a DVD from Thailand. After watching the film, I can understand the offense people in Kazakhstan felt, but in reality, the only real connection to the country was Cohen’s brief use of the Kazakhstani flag and some authentic Kazakh names. The truth of the matter is that his portrayal of my wife’s people was so ridiculous and over-the-top that you would have to be pretty naďve and narrow minded to buy it, even if you’d never heard of Kazakhstan.

So I wasn’t offended by his representation of Kazakhstan, but I was very offended by Cohen’s cheap use of “bathroom humor”, ad nauseum. And, interestingly, my offense wasn’t so much based on some sort of bruised morality, but I was actually more offended as an artist, that Cohen kept falling back on the cheap laugh.

For example, when Cohen was unable to get a group of white Alabamians at a dinner party to say something incriminating, he resorted to the use of literal bathroom humor (can’t get much more literal than that…), and then he added insult to injury by bringing a prostitute to the table. This, in my mind, demonstrated Cohen’s cheap character rather than any lacking in his hosts, and it was a shoddy method that he fell back on several times.

I did think that Cohen was clever in the way he used his seemingly innocent personae to encourage people to reveal their true thoughts on sensitive topics, such as race. And while the movie does have some funny moments that aren’t connected to the potty or perversion, they are so few and far between that it doesn’t make it worth the effort. To me, the film doesn’t have much by the way of redeeming qualities, and certainly won’t tell you anything true about Kazakhstan.

In conclusion, If you have been thinking of watching Borat, I would say don’t bother. Life’s too short, and there are plenty of other good films to watch. In fact, while I’m traveling around the U.S. this summer, I hope to take the opportunity to show some authentic Kazakh films to show what Kazakhs and Kazakhstan are really like.



#85 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 10 March 2007 - 01:15 AM

Kazakhs buying 'Borat' DVDs
The Kazakh government may not like the representation of their nation in Fox's outrageous laffer "Borat" but their subjects are voting with their hard-earned tenge, making the "Borat" DVD the most ordered product from the U.K. arm of online retailer Amazon.
Variety, March 9

#86 Plot Device

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Posted 10 March 2007 - 12:26 PM

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Mar 10 2007, 01:15 AM) View Post
Kazakhs buying 'Borat' DVDs
The Kazakh government may not like the representation of their nation in Fox's outrageous laffer "Borat" but their subjects are voting with their hard-earned tenge, making the "Borat" DVD the most ordered product from the U.K. arm of online retailer Amazon.
Variety, March 9


That's usually what happens when ya ban something! tongue.gif

#87 Christian

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Posted 21 December 2007 - 09:23 PM

The character has been retired.

#88 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 21 December 2007 - 11:20 PM

Sacha Baron Cohen: Killing off Borat
In a rare interview as himself, Sacha Baron Cohen tells John Hiscock about auditioning for Sondheim, the secret he kept from Tim Burton -- and the pain of abandoning his comic creations
Daily Telegraph, December 21

#89 John Drew

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 01:18 PM

Sequel.... of sorts....

#90 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 03:48 PM

Whereas Baron-Cohen's humor is deliberately provocative and outrageous - and not always very humorous. I think he's more aware than anyone that truly outrageous statements can (and sometimes do) provoke genuine outrage. it's not a matter of the audience "not getting it." It's that there's a meanness in his humor, and manipulativeness, too. FWIW, the rodeo sequence in the film got a *lot* of press here after it was shot ... and it would bother me a lot less if Baron-Cohen and the rodeo spectators had all been working from a script.

Oh my goodness. Forgive the four-year delay on this, but I was just looking for something else here at A&F, and I stumbled across this thread dated 14 January 2005, which appears to have been spurred by that rodeo event.

I wish I had been aware of that (and linked to that) when THIS thread got started, but oh well, better late than never!

#91 Rachel Anne

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 02:45 PM

Borat is back in the news.

Evidently at the Arab Shooting Championship in Kuwait, when a Kazakh sportswoman won a gold medal, the hosts played the movie's parody Kazakh national anthem (with lyrics like: "Kazakhstan’s prostitutes cleanest in the region. Except of course Turkmenistan's.") instead of the real one:

http://www.bbc.co.uk...e-east-17491344

As an interesting footnote, the movie itself had been banned in Kuwait.

Edited by bowen, 23 March 2012 - 02:46 PM.


#92 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 02:22 PM

Kazakhstan Officials Thank Sacha Baron Cohen For Borat Boost
. . . Government officials in Kazakhstan were initially very wary of Cohen's creation, launching a public relations campaign to counteract a possible backlash from the film and even threatening to sue the star over a spin-off Borat website he launched.
However, Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov has now made a turnaround and thanked the filmmakers for giving the country a tourism boost.
Afp reports he told the Kazakh parliament, "With the release of this film, the number of visas issued by Kazakhstan grew tenfold. I am grateful to Borat for helping attract tourists to Kazakhstan."
WENN, April 25