Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev has called upon the land of free speech to complain about the Berkshire native, Jewish-born comedian/actor Sacha Baron "Borat/Ali G" Cohen's portrayal of a Kazakh TV presenter in the film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
Nazarbayev R.S.V.P'ed President Bush' invitation to visit the White House where the two leaders will not "share a joke about the film," reported Kazakhstan Embassy spokesman, Roman Vassilenko. The Kazakh government wasn't thrilled with the film's Toronto Film Festival premiere and plans to PR the hell out of itself in the United States with television and print media to counter the negative image of Kazakhstan it says Cohen has promoted.
Sean R. Roberts of the Central Asian Affairs Fellow at Georgetown University says, "The increased [American] knowledge of Kazakhstan, however, is not due to the country's economic successes or its role as a U.S. ally in the war on terror. Instead, most Americans... have heard of it through a satire of a Kazakh journalist named Borat."
Sounds like the Kazakh make-us-look-good department is a day late and a Tenge short. Who's fault is that, Kazakhstan?
Kazakhstan hasn't just been sitting around, though. They did threaten Cohen with legal action. Threaten — as in said they would, but then they didn't. Cohen is a comedian for cryin' out loud, not a diplomat or a criminal. Is it safe to assume there are no comedy clubs in Almaty?
President of the Association of Kazakh IT Companies, Nurlan Isin did, however, shut down Cohen's website, borat, in response to all both complaints — one from the government and one from the Nazarbayev's security service. "We've done this so he can't badmouth Kazakhstan under the .kz domain name. He can go and do whatever he wants at other domains," Isin said
That's right, Isin, Cohen sure can go — all the way to the bank, thanks to the free international publicity and attention brought on by Kazakhstan itself; attention that will only fuel the box office, not a more positive Kazakhstan publicity campaign.