Kazakstan president protests spoof at WH and takes up 4 page NYTimes Ad after Jewish comedian spoofs country's backwardness
September 29, 2006
It is a comic spectacle Sacha Baron Cohen could have only dreamed of.
As the comedian paraded his controversial creation, spoof Kazakhstani television reporter Borat, around Washington on a whistle-stop publicity tour, the country's leader was locked in crisis talks at the White House to deal with the resulting fallout.
While Borat was creating mischief on the streets, in the Oval Office the former Soviet state's president Nursultan Nazarbayev was telling George Bush in Washington he most certainly did not get the joke.
Nazarbayev used the summit to complain in the strongest terms about the way his country has been portrayed by the comic.
In his hotly-anticipated spoof documentary - Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan - the 34-year-old north London Jewish funnyman stars as the boorish journalist, Borat Sagdiyev.
The film, which has won rave reviews at Toronto and Cannes film festivals, follows Borat as he drives an ice-cream van across the United States in a crazed quest to marry Pamela Anderson.
The bumbling reporter - who claims the main hobbies in Kazakhstan are 'disco dancing, archery, rape and table tennis' - is shown parading round the beach in a lime green swimsuit, boasting about the standard of the country's prostitutes and drinking from the toilet.
In one scene, a deadpan Borat declares: "The problem is, women have a smaller brain than a man."
It is perhaps hardly surprising that the Kazaks are furious at the portrayal, claiming that Borat demeans women, slanders gypsies and depicts their country as backward.
And as their leader aired his concerns at the highest level, Baron Cohen was basking in the reflective glare of what appeared to be a rather clever publicity coup.
An example of this came this week when the Kazakh government was moved to publish a four-page advert in The New York Times to correct the portrayal of their countrymen as primitives.
On the downside it also emerged last night that Baron Cohen's family have received anti-semitic threats.
Borat's controversial antics have angered the former Soviet state so much that the government have banned his spoof website, threatened legal action and made formal protests.
The Kazakh government keeps a tight lid on criticism in its news media.
Baron Cohen - who has successfully achieved superstar status in the US thanks to his other comic creation, gangster rapper Ali G - has taken advantage of the President's visit to Washington to promote the film.
With a horde of press in tow, he strode over to the White House to drop off an invite to see his film at a nearby cinema.
Secret Service agents turned away the comedian, who also invited to the screening: O.J. Simpson, 'Mel Gibsons' and other 'American dignitaries.'
The Washington Post gave him a glowing write-up: "The president of Kazakhstan came to town, and a massive press scrum fought for toeholds outside the country's embassy, where a grand new statue symbolizing Kazakh independence - a warrior holding a falcon standing on the back of a fierce winged cat - had just been unveiled.
"But, no, of course that's not why we were there. That's not why any of the 50 or so journalists were there. We were there for Borat.
"Or rather, Sacha Baron Cohen, the British comic who performs in the gonzo, deadpan, taking-the-joke-almost-too-far tradition of Peter Sellers."
A spokesman for the Kazakh embassy, Roman Vasilenko, said: "He is not a Kazakh. What he represents is a country of Boratastan, a country of one."
The Kazakh authorities have already launched a counter offensive, hiring two Western PR companies to denounce Borat's jokes. Nazarbayev has sought to raise the profile of the oil-rich former Soviet republic and assure the West that, contrary to Borat's claims, his is not a nation of drunken anti-Semites who treat their women worse than their donkeys.
Kazakhstan is expected to become one of the top 10 oil producers within a decade. A U.S. ally with troops in Iraq, the country has drawn criticism for its deteriorating civil liberties and flawed elections.
Cohen recently co-starred in the recent U.S. box office hit "Talladega Nights" and has appeared in TV comedy series "Da Ali G Show" on U.S. cable channel HBO and Britain's Channel 4.
Here is a statement from Borat
Jagshemash, my name Borat Sagdiyev. I would like comment on recent advertisements on television and in media about my nation of Kazakhstan, saying that women are treated equally, and that all religions are tolerated – these are disgusting fabrications.
These claims are part of a propoganda campaign against our country by evil nitwits Uzbekistan – who as we all know are a very nosey people, with a bone in the middle of their brain.
There is a man name Roman Vasilenko who is claiming to be Press Secretary of Kazakhstan. Please do not listen this man, he is Uzbek imposter, and is currently being hunted by our agents. I must further say on behalf of my government, that if Uzbekistan do not desist from funding these attacks, then we will not rule out the possibility of military intervention.
If there is one more item of Uzbek Propoganda claiming that we do NOT drink fermented horse urine, give death penalty for baking baigels, or export over 300 tonnes of human pubis per year, then we will be left with no alternative but to commence bombardment of their cities with our catapaults.
Furthermores, all claims that our glorious leader is displeased with my film, 'Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan' is lie. Infacts main purpose of Premier Nazharbayev's visit to Washingtons is to promote this moviefilm.
This why together with Ministry of Information he will be hosting a screening tomorrow evening, to which he have invitate Premiere George Walter Bush and other American dignitaries - Donald Rumsfeld, Bill Gates, OJ Simpson and Mel Gibsons.
This screening will be followed by cocktail party and a discussion of closer ties between our countries at Hooters, on 825 7th Street. Thank you, I must now return to Embassy where my government need me.