Baron Cohen, Enemy Agent?

By Anthony Weiss

Published November 18, 2005, issue of November 18, 2005.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Zamanbek Nurkadilov, a former minister in the government of Kazakhstan and a critic of the country’s president, was found shot dead in his home Saturday. An alarming development, one might think, but officials of the Central Asian country seem more concerned about possible damage to their image done by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen at the MTV Europe Music Awards earlier this month. Kazakh officials threatened Monday to sue Baron Cohen, whose portrayal of the bumbling Kazakh TV reporter Borat Sagdiyev they have deemed an “unacceptable” attack on their country. One official intimated that perhaps the comedian was operating at the behest of some enemy of Kazakhstan and its people.

The lovable yet serially inappropriate Borat character, one of the alter egos assumed by Baron Cohen on his “Da Ali G Show,” has suggested, among other things, that rape is a common Kazakh pastime, that fermented horse urine is a beloved national beverage and that “Dirty Jew” is a popular Kazakh film. The character was filmed arriving at the MTV awards in a single-propeller Air Kazakh plane, piloted by a one-eyed man drinking from a bottle of vodka.

As they have in the past, Ka-zakh officials contend that the character depicts not only an inaccurate picture of Kazakh life but a potentially damaging one, as well. “People may have an inkling that Kazakhstan is a country that mistreats women and Jewish people,” Roman Vassilenko, a spokesman for the Kazakhstan embassy, told the Forward. “We believe this is very unhelpful.”

The character’s antics come at a time when Kazakhstan is looking to burnish its image on the international stage. According to David Twersky, director of international affairs for the American Jewish Congress, Kazakhstan has asked to host a conference on antisemitism, to be held next year by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. “I don’t think they’ll get it, because of human rights and democracy questions,” Twersky said. “They think this is a ticket into the West — being good to the Jews, hosting the antisemitism conference.”

Attempts by the Forward to reach Baron Cohen for comment were unsuccessful. According to the comedian’s agent, Matthew Labov, “He is relaxing at a resort in the Caspian Sea.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.