January 24, 2008 / 10:50 AM / 10 years ago

"Land of Borat" Kazakhstan shines in Oscar limelight

ALMATY (Reuters) - A Kazakh-financed film has been nominated for best foreign film at this year’s Oscars, a welcome creative boost to this central Asian country that was so heavily lampooned by the hit “Borat” movie.

Sarsenova Gulnara (L) and Galimgereyev Bolat, producers of Kazakhstan's film "Mongol", which is nominated for the Oscar foreign-language prize, attend a news conference in Almaty January 24, 2008. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

“This nomination is a message to Kazakhstan’s business and government: Guys, you can export not just oil, gas and grain but also highly creative products,” said Bolat Galimgereyev, one of the film’s main producers and sponsors.

“Mongol,” Kazakhstan’s first-ever Oscar nod comes after British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen poked fun at the country in the highly successful 2006 movie, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.”

“Mongol,” submitted by Kazakhstan in the Foreign Language Film category for the 80th Academy Awards, was made by a Russian director and stars Japanese, Mongol and Chinese actors.

The 15 million euro ($21.93 million) film was financed by private Kazakh investors and partly filmed in the steppes and mountains of Kazakhstan, a country the size of Western Europe populated by the descendants of nomadic tribes.

“We are really proud of our film and our country,” Gulnara Sarsenova, another producer and sponsor, said in the Kazakh financial capital Almaty.

“It was a joint project but we also put a lot of effort into it, a lot of soul, a lot of time.”

The Borat film, which portrayed Kazakhstan as a nation of horse urine-drinking racists, was nominated for best screenplay at 2007 Oscars but didn’t win.

Director Sergei Bodrov’s “Mongol” is a story about survival and war tracing the early life of Mongol conqueror Genghiz Khan, played by Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano.

At the February 24 Academy Awards in Hollywood, “Mongol” will compete against “The Counterfeiters” from Austria, “Katyn” from Poland, the Israeli war drama “Beaufort,” and Russia’s “12.”

The makers of “Mongol” were positive ahead of the Awards.

“We are going to go and get that statue,” Galimgereyev said, two giant cardboard replicas of the Oscar statuette looming over him in a press room.

“We haven’t got the gold-plated Oscar statue yet, but at least we’ve already got a cardboard one.”

Editing by Matthew Jones

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