Kazakhs bothered by Borat

ADAM WAZNY

, Last Updated: 11:00 AM ET

SELKIRK -- Fitting it would provide some uncomfortable moments during an innocent media scrum, considering the whole premise of the subject is rooted in awkward.

Borat. Borat Sagdiyev. Perhaps you've heard of the movie that bears his name?

"I heard about it ... it's not shown there," offered Kazakhstan team leader and coach Sergey Solovyev Monday. "I didn't see this and I don't know what the film is about."

Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) is a Kazakh reporter making his way across the United States. Along the way he encounters real people, unsuspecting souls who aren't in on the gag, and documents the exchanges. The movie is genius, not for the story but for the response it evokes in the viewer. You know the cringing feeling you get when watching the forced, mindless banter between the deskers at the end of the 6 o'clock newscast?

Multiply that by a thousand. Laugh or leave the room.

Solovyev, God bless him, tried to appease the questioner with a more extended answer, suggesting that any publicity that would distinguish his small populated country from the other 'Stans (Pakistan, Uzbekistan) is a good thing, but as he struggles to provide thoughts on something he hasn't seen, he's interrupted.

"Why go there? I explain to (the team) that they are very popular," the translator jumps in, obviously bothered by the non-women's hockey subject and the portrayal of Kazakh people in the film. "We went to the car show (in Winnipeg Sunday) and everybody wants to see. They announced that the Kazakhstan team is there and I explained why they would be popular there because of the movie. It's definitely not something they would like.

"It's not the (right) way to portray (Kazakhstan)."

Suddenly the awkward levels in the room went up. Our own Borat moment.

The next day the Selkirk media liaison at the World Women's Hockey Championships informed the press that the Kazakhstan team, a slight fan-favourite in Steeltown during a 9-0 loss to the U.S. Tuesday night, would not comment on anything Borat for the rest of the tournament. Players have not seen the movie and being asked to submit a review with every interview would be as productive as asking the Chinese women for their thoughts on where a Bomber stadium should be built.

It's understandable why the Kazakh handlers would make the request. Past the laughs and the uneasy emotion it produces, the movie is actually a dig at the western world's inability to deal with people whose cultures differ from our own, but the premise is only exposed through the over-the-top inappropriate (borderline embarrassing) behaviour of the main character. The 2006 film is reportedly discouraged from being shown in Kazakhstan, as on the surface, it doesn't exactly depict their people in a favourable light.

Look at it this way: Imagine if Canadians were portrayed as tuque-wearing, Molson-guzzling, Geddy Lee-loving, hockey crazed hosers who cook back-bacon on a Coleman at the side of the couch, debating things like snow tires and donuts while accidentally asking questions not with question marks but with the utterance of "eh" at the end of each sentence. How would that take off in the Great White North?

Umm ...

awazny@wpgsun.com


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