Borat makes benefit Kazakhstan

Visa applications up tenfold thanks to unlikely national hero.

by Jennie Kermode

First they tried to ban the film and even stop their citizens from visiting Sacha Baron Cohen's website. Now the Kazakh government have acknowledged that it has raised their international profile and given their tourist industry a massive boost.

Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan follows Sacha Baron Cohen, presenting himself as a Kazakh television star, as he travels around the US exposing its foibles and almost exposing himself in some rather skimpy swimwear. Despite, or perhaps because of, the Kazakh government's initial negative reaction, the Kazakh people took Borat to their hearts and there was a roaring trade in smuggled DVDs and illegal downloads of the film.

Now Kazakhstan's foreign minister, Yerzhan Kazykhanov, has admitted that thanks to Borat the country has supplied ten times the number of tourist visas as in the yars before the film's release. "This is a big victory for us and I thank Borat for attracting tourists to Kazakhstan," he said in a parliamentary statement.

But it's not all joy for the Kazakhs. Last month they filed a formal complaint with the Asian Olympic Committee after Kuwaiti officials at a shooting event inadvertently played Borat's version of the country's national anthem instead of the real one. A special missive has been sent to the organisers of each event at the London Olympics in the hopes of preventing any similar incident.

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