Kazakhstan has a bizarre love-hate relationship with Borat. Why is their reaction so mixed to this movie?
Borat, a film starring Sacha Baron Cohen as the titular character, tells the story of a foreign man from Kazakhstan learning about American culture. It was filmed in a way that many audiences found offensive, due to its portrayal of the country as a mix of "incest, political suppression, and religious intolerance." While foreign audiences laughed at the (admittedly exaggerated) portrayal, Kazakhs were not amused.
Kazakhs weren't the only ones offended. The movie was banned in Arab countries and the Russian government discouraged Russian cinemas from showing it, creating a global controversy!
That's why it came as such a surprise in 2006 to find out that Kazakh novelist Sapabek Asip-uly petitioned his nation's Club of Art Patrons to give their annual award to Sacha Baron Cohen. Even more surprising was that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev fully supported the nomination, agreeing with Sapabek that Cohen had raised the profile of the country to a level no one thought possible.