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British diplomats do not defend Borat

Martin Rosenbaum | 11:58 UK time, Monday, 27 November 2006

Borat Sagdiyev may be a fictional Kazakh TV journalist, but it seems that he's been causing real problems for British diplomats in Kazakhstan.

Foreign Office officials discussed how to put themselves 'at arm's length from the character a bit more' to avoid any 'hint of us defending him.' This followed British diplomats in Kazakhstan reporting back about the Kazakh government's 'serious concerns about the Borat character'.

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev may have treated Borat as a joke at his press conference last week with Tony Blair - 'The film was created by a comedian so let's laugh at it, that's my attitude' - but it clearly hasn't always been a laughing matter in British-Kazakh relations.

The fact that it has been a touchy subject throughout the past year is made clear in documents released to the BBC by the Foreign Office under freedom of information. This stems from the period Borat has been a TV character, prior to the hit film coming out this month.

The British Embassy there reported that the 'Kazakhstan Government has serious concerns about the Borat character. His site is banned by Kazakhstan telecommunications operator.'

One diplomat told London: 'I've been asked about Borat in almost every press conference I have done here.'

A Foreign Office official advised: 'My concern here is to put us at arm's length from the actor a bit more and for there to be no hint of us defending him - while pointing out of course that we have a free media.'

Officials drew up a 'press line' as follows: 'We do understand your concern. However, the aim of this comic act, as I understand it, is not about discrediting Kazakhstan, but about revealing the prejudices of certain people. Borat is an entirely fictional character that no informed person would see as a representative of Kazakhstan or a Kazakh journalist. Media in the UK operate in a free and unobstructed way.'

The Kazakh Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) complained vociferously last year about Borat's appearance at the MTV Europe Music Awards. The British Embassy then reported home: 'There have been constant grumblings about Borat, but it looks like the MFA's patience has finally snapped.'

The information released constitutes only part of what Foreign Office officials have been saying to each other about Sacha Baron Cohen's portrayal of Borat. The Foreign Office refused to release other documents because it 'would be likely to prejudice relations between the United Kingdom and Kazakhstan'.

Comments   Post your comment

Borat is the sickest humor that has been produced.

  • 2.
  • At 03:18 PM on 27 Nov 2006,
  • Ralf wrote:

This film is not worth the money I paid for. I don't find it at all amusing. It's degrading to all the network of society.

  • 3.
  • At 04:15 PM on 27 Nov 2006,
  • paddy wrote:

It is quite absurd to think of Borat as a comedy. I have been to Kazakhstan several times, and it is quite clear to me that Borat is more fact than fiction. The Kazahkstan officals are quite right to be upset.

  • 4.
  • At 04:19 PM on 27 Nov 2006,
  • john wrote:

catch a grip everybody this is a comedy acted by a comedian if you dont have a sense of humour or dont apreciate this type of humour then dont watch it but people should have the right to watch what they want and to be such a bad film it has sold out in american box realy this is just your opinion comedians have been sleging of religions racisests and sexualitys for centuries and just because this has been a huge hit it comes into the lime light..personaly i think this is one of the funniest films ive seen in a long time its a must watch and this guy is a genies..judge it for urself

I was expecting this film to be funny, and it surpassed all of my expectations.
Anybody who does not find this funny must be narrow-minded in the extreme. Baron Cohen reveals many deep seated prejudices and keeps to his character brilliantly.
Anybody who takes him seriously though has some major problems of their own.
Well done Borat!

I try not to go off on BBC licence fee rants but how on EARTH do the BBC justify wasting their time and the government's time dredging up correspondence relating to a FILM?

  • 7.
  • At 09:19 AM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • paddy wrote:

If I ever met Borat I would give him a piece of my mind. He is a terribly ignorant sexist racist bigot. This man should not be allowed to pollute the airwaves.

  • 8.
  • At 10:11 AM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • Anonymous wrote:

I have to admit that I laughed at some of these comments. One does womder if paddy is real "If I ever met Borat I would give him a piece of my mind. He is a terribly ignorant sexist racist bigot."

Sacha Baron Cohen's comedy is SATIRE.

Satire is a technique used in drama and the performing arts, fiction, journalism, and occasionally in poetry and the graphic arts. Although satire is usually witty, and often very funny, the primary purpose of satire is not humour as such – but social or political criticism.

A very common, almost defining feature of satire is a strong vein of irony or sarcasm, in fact satirical writing or drama very often professes to approve values that are the diametric opposite of what the writer actually wishes to promote.

SBC is a Jew and so it is HIGHLY unlikely that he actually believes the things that Borat says about Jews, he is turning the spotlight on societies attitudes, not his own.

As for Borat's conversion and subsequent following of Mr. Jesus after meeting some very strange evangelical types in the US, I can only say that it was one of the funniest things I have seen for years.

Get a sense of humour.

  • 9.
  • At 10:19 AM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • Dennis wrote:


"I have to admit that I laughed at some of these comments." Was me!

  • 10.
  • At 11:33 AM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • James Love wrote:

Although the fictional character, Borat is viewed as an offensive stereotype of a backward nation, he does not, in reality, represent the people or goverment of Kazhakstan.

I believe that Sacha Baron Cohen, is not showing how people view Kazhakstan but the attitudes of the american people themselves. Only 50% of americans have a passport and as many of them never leave the country, stereotypes and prejudices of foriegners are common.

It is there arrogance and ignorance of being the best nation and that the rest of the world is someone elses affair.

Sacha Baron Cohen uses the cover of Borat to show the american peoples righteous ignorance and acceptance of prejudices.

He is a genius of a man by entertaining the american audience that he holds to mockery.

  • 11.
  • At 03:43 PM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • Luke May wrote:

I found the film hilarious.

The Ali G show was hilarious and so is the Borat spin-off.

  • 12.
  • At 07:00 PM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • JLo wrote:

HA! The BBC have a blog relating to freedom of information, what a cynical joke.( I have little doubt that you'll black this out)
You want to report news - Like it's only in Germany that the war criminals from the American Government can be tried for the illegal torture of prisoners.

Like how there's a diplomatic process in the UK, Germany and underway to head-off this outcome...

Like the British Government knowing about extraordinary rendition and saying nothing.

What about the claims from a passenger on one of the blown up tubes who has says the floor was ripped upwards?

Why don't you investigate your journalism rather than waiting for the propoganda to fall into your lap, to be told what to say?

  • 13.
  • At 07:58 PM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • JLo wrote:

why don't we coccoon ourselves in trivial fluff, like a fictitious character....then we don't have to contemplate the disaster that out culture has become

  • 14.
  • At 09:37 PM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • Sahifa wrote:

Thank God! somebody else realised Borat is a satire! I thought I was the only person in the whole cinema hall who understood it, everybody seems to be taking it literally, it's obvoiusly a sarcastic film, that portrays the general ignorance of the american public towards foreigners, and considering that most the people in the film thought they were being filmed for a documentary shows the realness of the steryotypes - for example the feminist grou. Borat is an attempt to bring to light the fact that stereotypes are way too imporatnt in our society and the fact that Borat thinks that bugs are the jews in disguise only shows how ridiculous it is to believe everything you hear, the same goes for the film, it has provoked controversy but I'm sure its producers knew it would, and it has acheived its purpose of makinbg people question stereotypes.

  • 15.
  • At 07:26 PM on 10 Dec 2006,
  • Penny wrote:

The weird thing is that Borat is actually speaking in Hebrew when he is pretending to speak in Kazakhstani and the fat guy who costars with him seems to be speaking some kind of Indian language if I am not mistaken. There is such a mishmash of images, bigotry and so on and although I found it kind of funny and shocking, the most shocking wasn't Borat's fictional character but America's real people....
I also found it lacking in the intelligence to contain any real social criticism. Just slapstick, sick, lets-see-how-far-we-can-go style really.
I wonder how many times he was arrested and beaten up during the filming...

  • 16.
  • At 04:16 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Paul D. wrote:

I'm an American from a particularly close-minded part of Amercia (Southern Ohio to be exact) and I have to agree with all of you people that are saying the film is criticizing Americans ignorance when it comes to foreigners. I myself have never had the chance to venture out of the country, so I suppose I'm a bit like that too. It's Painfully bad where I live though. In New York, you couldn't get away with making racist comments, but here in my school students make fun of African Americans, Jews, Latinos, and all manner of minorities. And the scary thing is, it gets worse the farther South you go. There need to be more films like Borat (though I'd like them to be a bit more on the offensive (to an american audience) side to increase the shock value) released in the US to help Americans realize that there are other kinds of people worth their salt other than Caucasians.

  • 17.
  • At 09:36 PM on 10 Jan 2007,
  • R wrote:

Paul D.,

Kazakhs aren't all that far from the Caucasus Mountain region, making them, in all likelihood, Caucasians being made fun of in the movie. I have a swarthy appearance, since my Dad is from around that region. Pigment isn't what makes a Caucasian.
I know, here in the States that's a bit too complicated for some folk.

Anyway, I'm from northern Ohio, and you're right, you south Ohio guys are nuts.

Every culture villifies the 'Other' - it's our animal nature. We need to rise above it to be fully human.

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