Kazakhstan was decidedly not amused when British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen poked fun at the former Soviet nation six years ago in his rollicking, often profane mockumentary "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan."
Now a Kazakh official says the ribbing has had an upside. Foreign tourism to Kazakhstan has surged since the film was released, with the number of visas to the country growing tenfold, Foreign Minister Erzhan Kazykhanov reportedly said Monday.
"For us it is a great victory. I am grateful to Borat, the main character of the movie, for tourists’ keen interest in Kazakhstan,” the Kazakh-based Tengri News quoted Kazykhanov as saying.
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.
In the 2006 movie, Borat, a blithely boorish journalist from rural Kazakhstan, travels around the United States, spewing wildly sexist and anti-Semitic remarks.
The comedy was banned in Kazakhstan when it first came out -- and embarrassed the country again this year when a Kuwaiti athletic competition confused its national anthem with the "Borat" spoof song, which lauds the country for its potassium and prostitutes.
Kazykhanov said he approached the film "philosophically," the news agency Agence France-Presse reported. He's also taken steps to avoid another anthem mix-up: All Kazakh embassies are supposed to provide the state anthem and other materials to officials abroad, the foreign minister reportedly added.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: This undated photo shows actor Sacha Baron Cohen in a scene from the film "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." Credit: Twentieth Century Fox