Kazakhstan strikes back with 'the real Borat story'


Kazakhstan is striking back. Five years after Sacha Baron Cohen portrayed it as a place of slack-jawed, sister-marrying thugs, its film industry is producing what it styles "the real Borat story."

According to Kazakh tourism minister Talgat Ermegiayev, "it will show international audiences the real Kazakhstan and just how much it has to offer."

There isn't a nylon suit to be seen in Myn Bala – it's a historical epic which tells the tale of how two centuries ago, Kazakhs overthrew their Mongolian oppressors (at least until the Soviet Union came calling.)

With its lavish battle scenes all filmed on the windswept Kazakh steppes, it has overtones of foreign-language blockbusters like Nomad and Mongol. The director, 39 year old Akan Satayev, is normally behind the camera for gangster films – including last year's Liquidator, which he made with British star Vinnie Jones.

An army of Mongol invaders proved curiously easy to direct.

"We had no problem with funding, we had no problem with money," he emphasises keenly. Seven million dollars, much of which was given by the Kazakh state, buys more helmets and horses than in Hollywood.

The stunts were provided by the native "Nomad" troupe of horse riders who have also worked on Conan the Barbarian and The Expendables, while open auditions were held in a national quest to find the young cast of the movie.

Myn Bala will receive an international launch for the world's press this spring, either at the Berlin or Cannes International Film Festival.

The Kazakh premiere will be on the day of Kazakh New Year, in March. But it's only at the forefront of the charge of films from the former Soviet Republic.

The same studio behind Myn Bala, Kazakhfilms, has 20 more films in pre-production – all are being made by directors under the age of 30.

It seems that at last, film-wise, someone will really and properly Make Benefit for Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.