Borat & Mansur

by Nathan Hamm on 9/27/2006 · 4 comments

In a post I wrote yesterday, I said something very mean. I called Australian journalists “feeble-minded.” That is quite unfair to Australian journalists, as it now seems a bit more evident to me that feeble-mindedness amongst journalists is not hemmed in by borders or citizenship.

While getting a few details about Borat himself incorrect, Kommersant also suggests that the Kazakh film Nomad is a reaction to Borat. (They do say that Borat will not be mentioned during Nazarbaev’s meetings with Bush.) UPI also says the same thing, sourcing it back to London’s The Times. Film site Cinematical apparently had a post that has since been deleted making the same assertion. (I base this off the comment that it still up.) Another Australian outlet carries The Times story claiming Nomad is a response to Borat.

As dolkun pointed out in a comment to the aforementioned post from yesterday, Nomad has been in production for a while. According to IMDB, production shut down halfway through because of money and weather problems and that the movie was completed in late 2004-early 2005, making quite clear that the beginnings of production came well before Borat was such a well-known character.

Again, journalists seem to be grasping for more of a conflict than really exists. Kazakhstani officials have admittedly overreacted to Borat in the past, but they seem to be a bit savvier and just wishing to ignore the whole thing. According to the Kommersant story, Borat will not be banned in Kazakhstan and that the Otau Cinemas chain will show it “if it is interesting.” (I used the Borat trailer to show how video can be put on blogs during a session at the conference in Almaty. People thought it looked pretty funny.)

Thankfully though, some journalists have taken the time to properly do their jobs on this story. The Scotsman carries a story with a quote from Kazakhstani officials addressing the Borat/Nomad issue.

A spokesman for the Kazakh embassy in London said: “This film was not made because of Borat, but we do believe that we need to make people more aware of Kazakhstan. Most people had never heard of Kazakhstan before the 1990s, but the nation has a history and heritage which pre-dates Christ. I think that many people in the West now regard Borat as offensive and inappropriate and nothing to do with Kazakhstan.”

Was it made because of Borat? Absolutely not. Is it a way for the Kazakh government to put out part of the image of Kazakhstan it wants the world to see? Certainly. And as this detailed story on Nomad notes, even if it was not made specifically as a response to Borat, it coincidentally stands to serve that purpose.

UPDATE: I have some more additions for the honor roll.

Granted, theirs are derivative mistakes, but…

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This post was written by...

– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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KZblog September 27, 2006 at 8:09 pm

It should be noted that Nomads is ALSO 1) a really great film, 2) based on a historical novel written ages ago and thus not only a tool of Kazakh nationalism but also an attempt to depict Kazakh history with a little flair and 3) the usual way films are made, based on good books. 4) A glance at the IMDB forum shows that ordinary Kazakhs want Americans and the world to see it, to see their culture and history. Heck, I want my family and friends to see it!

Nathan September 27, 2006 at 8:11 pm

I would have gone to see it when I was in Almaty if the stars had been aligned a little better. (I came down with a nasty cold, severely hampering my motivation to do anything.)

Narcogen September 27, 2006 at 10:56 pm

Sorry to hear that. It does seem to be fall cold & flu season in Almaty right now.

As for Nomad, it was a great first step, but unfortunately not all of the $15M spent on it reached the screen, if you know what I mean– and it shows. The casting choices were also controversial among Kazakhstani citizens.

As for the inaccurate portrayals of Nomad as a reaction to Borat, that seems to be nothing more than a chronological error. I was aware of the script and the funding for Nomad years before I had ever heard of Borat, before Cohen even had a show. I had seen the Ali G character then, but I don’t even think Borat had yet been imagined.

Katy September 28, 2006 at 3:03 pm

geez. I just emailed a bunch of these to you. D’oh!

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