Jagshemash!!!! I must be careful how I say this but could there be a Borat backlash.
Already the media are reporting various legal actions being threatened by some of the more humourless victims of the fictitious foreigner’s pranks in “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.”
Perhaps it’s no surprise that those who were ridiculed in the movie have
chosen to act so ridiculously. The US of A is litigation heaven and film companies are seen as good targets, with oodles of cash to plunder, despite the intrinsic irony in a couple of college students who didn’t read the small print of the contracts they signed suing because they were portrayed as dim wits.
What’s more interesting to me is the way the Kazakhs themselves are belatedly coming to the aid of their new national hero. Having initially suffered a majorsense of humour failure at Borat’s lampooning of their glorious nation, theys ubsequently enjoyed a massive surge in tourism to their hitherto undiscovered land.
This has not gone unnoticed by the Kazakh powers that be as they count their
tourist dollars, and they have sensibly decided to capitalize on this unexpected PR windfall.
The Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarbayev,
(and his own) career-long international invisibility, has launched a globaloffensive by making state visits wherever there’s a cinema showing Borat.
There’s a PR firm called MMD which has an office in Kazakhstan and has been all over the media suggesting that it’s behind this change in Kazakh fortunes. But I smell a more professional hand helping here.
The campaign was already taking shape on the eve of release of the hit film
(which made its money back on its first day in US cinemas). First there was a four-page ad in sections of The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune at the end of September.
Then, quicker than a Republican aide could whisper “world atlas” to George
Bush, Nazarbayev visited the White House. Oh to have been a fly on the wall
of that particular meeting of minds.
This week the canny Kazakh has been in London, taking the sting out of the
cinematic attack on his country in the best way possible – by pretending to like it.
Yesterday in the Spectator the president scribbled a feature pointing out
the various misconceptions made by the film, which will at least clarify matters for a handful of public-school Tories, if not the rest of us.
It’s too early to judge if the president’s charm offensive will be effective but what’s already clear is that Sacha Baron-Cohen is facing flak and the Kazakhs are looking forward to an injection of foreign cash from film fans looking for an exotic holiday destination.
Somewhere in Kazakhstan there’s a man making fermented yak’s urine into
alcohol and laughing all the way to the bank.