Along with breakthrough star Maria Bakalova, Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat Sagdiyev has gifted the world a sequel to his 2006 movie, titled Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
After quietly filming the Borat sequel before and even during the COVID pandemic, Subsequent Moviefilm arrived on Oct. 23 to the delight of American audiences.
But many are wondering how the movie and its sequel landed with Kazakh viewers — are they in on the joke or do they dislike the portrayal? Put another way: What does Kazakhstan think of Borat? Keep reading while we investigate.
What does Kazakhstan think of 'Borat'? Let's start at the beginning.
Back when the original Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan premiered in 2006, Kazakh officials were less than pleased at how the movie portrayed its citizens.
While some Kazakhs got the joke, and understood that the butt of Sacha Baron Cohen's jokes were Americans, who espouse the problematically racist and backward ideas that Borat's character elicits them to admit on camera, many were concerned audiences would get the wrong message.
An op-ed written following the film's release by Kazakhstan's ambassador to the United Kingdom demanded to know: "Why has Baron Cohen chosen Kazakhstan as the vehicle for his comic talents? Kazakhstan is the size of Western Europe. Far from being a backwater, it is set to become one of the top five oil producers in the next decade; in the past six years it has had an annual growth rate of about 10% and, over the past three years, the proportion of those living below the poverty line has fallen from 25% to 16%."
"We are an easy target," the ambassador concluded, adding that "Borat could have been made the citizen of a country with a truly awful record on human rights - say Afghanistan in the days of the Taliban. But that would have been risky."
And so the authoritarian Kazakh government attempted to ban the original film, according to The New York Times. They also took out a four-page advertisement in the Times "defending the country's honor" and threatened to sue Sasha.
"Great Success!" Now, the Kazakh government is embracing 'Borat 2.'
But not all viewers felt that way. "I don't think he's laughing at Kazakh people in particular, for some reason he decided [to set the film in] Kazakhstan," one Kazakh viewer said. "But as far as I remember, in the first one, they shot in Romania not in Kazakhstan and I think that was about the American president. [It] has nothing to do with Kazakh people."
Now that more than ten years have passed and the internet, along with social media, have become ubiquitous throughout the world, Kazakhstan has realized that Borat and the Subsequent Moviefilm are actually "the best PR for Kazakhstan."
As one citizen put it, "so many people started to Google and search about Kazakhstan," and "lots of people came here just to see what Kazakhstan really is [like]."
While many Kazakhs are eager to tune into the sequel, saying, according to the Times, that "in Kazakhstan, there's pre-Borat and post-Borat," nothing exemplifies the reversal of opinions among officials like the country's latest tourism slogan.
Dennis Keen, an American who now lives in Kazakhstan, proposed the country embrace the film and adopt the character's catchphrase into the country's tourism slogan.
"Kazakhstan. Very nice!" got a resounding yes when Dennis pitched it to the board of tourism. Now, it can be seen in four "slickly produced, internet-friendly 12-second spots."
As the deputy chairman of the tourism board, Kairat Sadvakassov, sees it, "In Covid times, when tourism spending is on hold, it was good to see the country mentioned in the media. Not in the nicest way, but it's good to be out there."