'Borat' dubbed film of the year - by Kazakh paper

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ALMATY - In perhaps the most unlikely praise yet for the misogynistic, anti-Semitic and fictional Kazakh TV reporter Borat's new movie, a leading newspaper in the real Kazakhstan dubbed it "film of the year" on Friday.

British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's alter ego has been a public relations nightmare for the Central Asian state's leaders, sensitive to their country's image abroad and conscious that few in the West have heard of the vast steppe nation.

The offbeat comedy, which satirizes America but also pokes fun at a fictional Kazakhstan as a place where people drink fermented horse urine among other questionable practices, led the worldwide box office for two weeks after it opened.

The Kazakh government threatened Cohen with "legal measures" last year, prompting the Jewish comedian to respond in character as Borat that he fully supported "his" government's decision to "sue this Jew".

Since then, the government has softened its stance, with officials saying they understand it is satire and not directed against Kazakhstan. But cinemas in Kazakhstan and neighboring Russia have both been told not to screen the "offensive" movie.

Baron Cohen himself explained in a U.S. magazine interview this week that "the joke is not on Kazakhstan".

On Friday, Karavan, a leading weekly tabloid, stepped into the fray after sending a correspondent in Vienna to watch "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan".

"Cultural Learnings is certainly not an anti-Kazakh, anti-Romanian or anti-Semitic ... It is a cruelly anti-American movie," the newspaper said. "It is amazingly funny and sad at the same time."

"I think this is the best film of the year," the correspondent, Andrei Shukhov, wrote.

Most Kazakh media and the general public, clueless about Borat, have so far largely ignored the worldwide hype.

The paper, which is liberal but usually loyal to the country's leadership, also offered some advice to the government by quoting a scene where Borat tries to calm down his producer:

"Relax, Azamat!"
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