Kazakh-American community slams 'racist' Borat for nation's 'public ridicule'
Watch: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm trailer
While Sacha Baron Cohen thanks Donald Trump for the free publicity for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, not everyone is happy with the clownish antics of his Kazakhstani reporter.
The Kazakh American Association, a non-profit organisation dedicated to ‘preserving and promoting’ Kazakh heritage and culture, has slammed the movie and the character's creator.
It claims the movie could 'incite violence against a highly vulnerable and underrepresented minority ethnic group'.
In a scathing letter seen by Variety, the association appealed to high-level executives at Amazon, which bought the movie to stream on Amazon Prime, asking them to axe the film's release date of October 23.
Among those addressed on the letter, written on October 20, were Jay Carney, senior vice president of global corporate affairs at Amazon and Drew Herdener, vice president of global corporate and operations communications.
“Considering today’s socially aware political climate, why is a racist film which openly berates, bullies and traumatizes a nation comprised of people of color an acceptable form of entertainment that meets Amazon’s ethical values? Why is our small nation fair game for public ridicule?” the letter reads.
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It also notes that after the release of the first Borat film in 2006, Kazakh children were reported as being bullied at school, while the community as a whole became subject to 'ethnicity-based humiliation'.
The letter goes on: “In this film, a white person adorns a Kazakh persona and then culturally appropriates and belittles everything we stand for. We, Kazakhs, are a small nation, but it does not mean that we are allowed to be targets for racism.
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“Mr. Cohen [sic] states that his primary target is Trump and racist Americans. If this was the case, he would have created a fake country, as he did in the film The Dictator. However, Mr. Cohen chose to openly bully, humiliate and dehumanize an actual nation.”
Speaking to Variety, Gaukhar Noortas, founder and CEO of the Hollywood Film Academy, and born in Kazakhstan, said: “Sacha Baron Cohen and his crew white washes our ethnicity and therefore makes it okay to make fun of us. It would be completely politically incorrect if they were Asian or Black.
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“We just want to make sure that we bring as much awareness as possible to the masses of how wrong it is. This is utterly racist, and people need to understand that this is what our campaign is about.”
Some are leaning into the increased notoriety, however.
Kazakhstan Tourism has adopted Borat's 'very nice!' catchphrase in a new advertising campaign.
Kairat Sadvakassov, deputy chairman of the Kazakhstan tourism board, told The New York Times: “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. We would love to work with Cohen, or maybe even have him film here.”
In response, Cohen has said: “This is a comedy, and the Kazakhstan in the film has nothing to do with the real country.
“I chose Kazakhstan because it was a place that almost nobody in the U.S. knew anything about, which allowed us to create a wild, comedic, fake world. The real Kazakhstan is a beautiful country with a modern, proud society — the opposite of Borat’s version.”