…a long line of illustrious inventors of mythical countries when he referred to the non-existent “Kyrzakhstan” instead of our ally Kyrgyzstan (good thing he’s not a stupid Republican).
Of course, most of these inventers were entertainers and writers, not secretaries of state. But (as I wrote earlier today) the line between entertainment and this administration has become increasingly blurred.
You might point out that Kerry is not the least bit entertaining. I submit that he is at least as entertaining as much entertainment these days, which is to say not very.
This story puts me in mind of the film “Borat,” which used the name of an actual country and offered a fictional and satiric (and rather revolting) depiction of it. At least Kerry didn’t go that far. The natives of the real Kazakhstan were not amused by “Borat”:
The “Kazakhstan” depicted in the film has little or no relationship with the actual country and the producers explicitly deny attempting to “convey the actual beliefs, practices or behaviour of anyone associated with Kazakhstan” in the “all persons fictitious” disclaimer. The scenes showing Borat’s home village were filmed in the Gypsy village of Glod, Romania. The name of Borat’s neighbor, Nursultan Tuyakbay, is a cross between the names of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and opposition politician Zharmakhan Tuyakbay.
No Kazakh language is heard in the film. Borat’s neighbors in Kazakhstan were portrayed by Roma people, who were unaware of the film’s subject. The Cyrillic alphabet used in the film is the Russian form, not the Kazakh one, although most of the words written in it (especially the geographical names) are either misspelled, or make no sense at all. The lettering on the aircraft in the beginning of the film is merely the result of Roman characters on a reversed image, while promotional materials spell “BORДT” with a Cyrillic letter for D substituted for the “A” in Faux Cyrillic style typically used to give a “Russian” appearance. Sacha Baron Cohen speaks Hebrew in the film, while Ken Davitian speaks Armenian. They also use several common phrases from Slavic languages: Borat’s trademark expressions “jagshemash” (jak się masz) and “chenquieh” (dziękuję) echo the Polish (or other related languages) for “How are you?” and “thank you”. While presenting his house, Borat says “tishe” to his house-cow; “tiše/тише” is Russian (similar words exist in other Slavic languages) for “quiet(er)” or “be quiet”…
In 2005, following Borat’s appearance at the MTV Movie Awards, the country’s Foreign Ministry threatened to sue Sacha Baron Cohen, and Borat’s “Kazakh-based” website, www.borat.kz, was taken down. A meeting between Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and U.S. President George W. Bush in September 2006 had Kazakhstan’s post-Borat international image among the items on the agenda. Kazakhstan also launched a multi-million dollar “Heart of Eurasia” campaign to counter the Borat effect; Baron Cohen replied by denouncing the campaign at an in-character press conference in front of the White House as the propaganda of the “evil nitwits” of Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is, throughout the film, referred to by Borat as his nation’s leading problem—leaving aside the Jews.
The Central Asian distributor of 20th Century Fox, Gemini Films, complied with a Kazakh government request to not release the film.
The Kazakh tabloid Karavan declared Borat to be the best film of the year, having had a reviewer see the film at a screening in Vienna. The paper claimed that it was “…certainly not an anti-Kazakh, anti-Romanian or anti-Semitic” film but rather “cruelly anti-American … amazingly funny and sad at the same time.” Another favorable word came from Kazakh novelist Sapabek Asip-uly, who suggested Baron Cohen be nominated for the annual award bestowed by the Kazakh Club of Art Patrons. In a letter published by the newspaper Vremya, Asip-uly wrote, “(Borat) has managed to spark an immense interest of the whole world in Kazakhstan—something our authorities could not do during the years of independence. If state officials completely lack a sense of humor, their country becomes a laughing stock.” Amazon UK has also reported significant numbers of orders of Borat on DVD from Kazakhstan. The film is also watched regularly by the Kazakhstan national football team’s players.
In March 2012, the parody national anthem from the film, which acclaims Kazakhstan for its high-quality potassium exports and having the second cleanest prostitutes in the region, was mistakenly played at the H.H. The Amir of Kuwait International Shooting Grand Prix in Kuwait. The Gold Winning medalist, Maria Dmitrienko, stood on the dais while the entire parody was played. The team complained, and the award ceremony was restaged. The incident apparently resulted from the wrong song being downloaded from the Internet.
I saw “Borat” in a movie theater when it came out. Didn’t think it was that funny. It was all the rage at the time, but when I tried to look it up to write this post I couldn’t even remember the name of it and had to do a fancy amount of Googling to find it.
Sic transit gloria mundi.