Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Kazakhstan and Borat

This morning I read about how the movie 'Borat' boosted tourism to Kazakhstan (posted on John Brown's blog) and had to share it on Facebook--my friends and I loved 'Borat', and it's a great twist in the story.

Back when the film came out in 2006, Kazakh officials were famously upset about the film's depiction of Kazakhstan as antisemitic, sexist, impoverished, technologically backwards, etc.  I actually took a Central Asian Studies class the following year and on the first day of class our professor mentioned 'Borat'...it was the only thing that most people in the room knew about Kazakhstan, for better or worse.

Now, apparently, the government is grateful that 'Borat' has sparked an interest in Kazakhstan.  Tourism has increased tenfold (the article doesn't give actual figures, but even if it meant 2 visas/year has become 20, that's a significant jump).  You can even take a 'Borat-themed tour':

"One travel company even boasts that a Borat-themed tour to Kazakhstan is 'coming soon' on its website. 'Who is the real Borat from Kazakhstan? What is Borat Sagdiyev's country really like?? There are different opinions. Join us and we will discover together!!!' the Oriental Express Central Asia company promises."

The tour is sure to disappoint fans of Borat--the real Kazakhstan is not what was portrayed in the film.  Quite literally, it wasn't--the shots of Kazakhstan were actually filmed about 3,000 miles away in Romania (villagers there were offended by the film, too).  And it really goes without saying that the other aspects of Borat's village are not going to be found in the real Kazakhstan--the backwardness, the anti-semitism, etc.  Although, why would you want to go to the 'Borat' version of Kazakhstan, with all of those negative qualities?

At any rate, I think the tenfold increase in tourism is a brilliant unintended consequence, and it just reaffirms the idea that there's no such thing as bad publicity.

No comments:

Post a Comment