Kazakh activists have denounced the Borat sequel in a letter to Amazon, claiming that the comedy is a racist depiction of the small, central Asian country and its people.
The Kazakh American Association addressed their letter to a trio of Amazon vice presidents, asking it to pull the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy off of its streaming service and apologize to the Kazakh community.
“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 non-profit asked in their October 20 letter obtained by Variety. “Why is our small nation fair game for public ridicule?”
The primary purpose of Borat and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is to play on the xenophobia and myopia of Americans. Baron Cohen claims that he chose the nation of Kazakhstan because he knew that Americans would have little knowledge of the country, allowing him freedom to create an unconstrained character and allowing Americans to project their own biases onto him.
“This is a comedy, and the Kazakhstan in the film has nothing to do with the real country,” Baron Cohen told the New York Times. “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.”
That argument doesn’t hold water with the Kazakh American Association, who point out that Americans lack of world knowledge would make it easy to create a fictional country for Borat to call home.
“Mr. Cohen 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," they wrote. “However, Mr. Cohen [sic] chose to openly bully, humiliate and dehumanize an actual nation.” The letter asks for an apology from Cohen and Amazon.
The country of Kazakhstan, for its part, has flipped the publicity offered to them by the movie. They launched a tourism campaign centered around Borat’s catchphrase “Very nice!” to showcase landmarks and natural wonders in the country.