Aside from red-state America and those from within the Donald Trump administration, many from within the Kazakh community take issue with Sacha Baron Cohen's depiction of Kazakhstan in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The Kazakh American Association sent a letter (via Variety) on October 20 to Amazon executives Jay Carney, Drew Herdener, and Sarah Gavin requesting Prime Video to cancel the film before its October 23rd release.
"Sacha Baron Cohen and his crew whitewashes our ethnicity and therefore makes it okay to make fun of us. It would be completely politically incorrect if they were Asian or Black," Gaukhar (Gia) Noortas, a Los-Angeles-based Kazakh native who is the founder and CEO of the Hollywood Film Academy. The KAA is dedicated to "preserving and promoting" Kazakh heritage and culture in the U.S. The letter continues that the 2006 original film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan caused "ethnically-based humiliation" and that Kazakh children were bullied at school. The country is a predominantly Muslim nation in Central Asia that shares borders with Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.
"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?" the letter continues. "Why is our small nation fair game for public ridicule? 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. 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 [sic] chose to openly bully, humiliate, and dehumanize an actual nation."
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm was in part set in Kazakhstan, but the country's parts were filmed in Romania, and the language spoken between Cohen's Borat and Maria Bakalova's Tutar (his daughter) is a mixture of Hebrew, Polish, and Bulgarian. Noortas explained after the 2006 film's release, "All kinds of strangers, when they find out I'm from Kazakhstan, ask me questions such as, 'Oh, do you really like that kind of free sexual behavior? Do you sleep with your brothers?' and all kinds of vulgar questions like that. They're not bad people; they're just misinformed." Noortas wanted to emphasize how much the films hurt the Kazakh community. "We just want to make sure that we bring as much awareness as possible to the masses of how wrong it is," she continues. "This is utterly racist, and people need to understand that this is what our campaign is about."
When it came to the new film, Kazakhstan itself embraced one of Borat's catchphrases into its new, more upbeat tourism campaign called "Kazakhstan, Very Nice!" Cohen responded to any criticism of his depictions via the New York Times. "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." Borat 2 is available to stream on Prime.