What is the response of Kazakhstan as the Borat hype increases?
On August 22, I wrote about the potential tension between the PR related to President Nazarbayev’s trip to the U.S. this autumn and the simultaneous “hype” around the new “Borat” film.
While there has not yet been significant PR about Kazakhstan related to President Nazarbayev’s visit, the “hype” surrounding the Borat film is increasingly daily. Most recently, Borat made a shocking entrance to the red carpet for the Toronto Film Festival where the new film is being premièred.
As the cheers of “Borat!!! Borat!!!” from the video indicate, this fictional character has gained a large following and has in a strange way increased the profile of Kazakhstan. In fact, when I was buying car insurance last week, the salesperson on the phone became especially attentive once he had learned that I had just returned from the home of Borat. He confided in me that he was a huge fan and was now particularly curious about Kazakhstan.
At least one well-traveled Kazakh political website, www.kub.kz, has taken notice of the hype and has republished articles about the Borat film this week from The New York Times, the Hollywood tabloid Entertainment Weekly, and Canadian television CTV. Perhaps Kub.kz has a soft spot for the Borat satire given that the site is run by the well-known Kazakh filmmaker Rachid Nugmanov. Regardless of the opinions of Nugmanov or his site concerning Borat, the administrators of Kub.kz at least acknowledge that Borat is an issue of political importance to Kazakhstan. While many people in Kazakhstan still are strongly insulted by the satire, including one of the anonymous commenters to my article from several weeks ago, others seem to get the joke. One commenter to the CTV article republished on Kub.kz provided a link to the following video tape of Borat’s impromptu Q&A session at the Toronto film festival after the projector malfunctioned ten minutes into the film.
The commenter noted that Kazakh diplomats might want to consider adopting some of Borat’s snappy answers to difficult questions. The example that the commenter offers is as follows:
Question: It's been said that your country is repressive. What do you say about that?
Borat: Yeah... (pause) Yes! (laughter) Thank you very much! (cheering)
If President Nazarbayev dares to have an open press conference while he is in the U.S., he will likely face the same question. If he does, will he be able to answer so quickly and smoothly or, even more importantly, will he receive a loud cheer from the crowd for his response?
NOTE: In my last post about Borat, I noted that I had sent his myspace page a letter requesting an interview. Sadly, I still have not heard a response, but I reiterate my offer to Borat. I would seriously like to hear what he thinks about his role in promoting Kazakhstan around the world.