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Foreign Correspondent -

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Beyond Borat

Broadcast: 29/03/2011

Kazakhstan film director Erkin Rakishev takes out his anger on "Borat" figure.

At first glance it's a dizzying wonderland. Kazakhstan's capital Astana is a kaleidoscope of
cutting edge architecture, gob-smacking public buildings and glittering shopping malls. It's a kind
of inside-out Dubai where even when it's below freezing, snowing and bitterly bleak outside,
Kazakhs in cossies splash and cavort in the perpetual summertime of a high rise aquatic centre.

It is of course a world away from the mediaeval, incestuous, determinedly backward country
portrayed by so-called journalist Borat Sagdiyev in his TV assignments and in his epic, big-screen
adventure "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan".
Borat's misreporting - or more accurately his alter ego, British comedian Sasha Baron Cohen's
mischievous lampooning - brought very little benefit to Kazakhstan.

And while western audiences might have laughed uproariously, Kazakhs grumbled and cursed.
Kazakhstan's all-powerful, long serving leader Nursultan Nazarbayev banned it.

And like his President, Kazakh movie director movie director Erkin Rakishev has taken Borat's slurs
particularly badly and has sworn vengeance on the bumbling hack.

"He's the devil, the devil's accomplice, the anti-Christ, the Satan. Your Harold Holt disappeared
without a trace so will Borat disappear too, but on dry land. Damn it I'll shoot him, I'll destroy
him." ERKIN RAKISHEV Film Director

Ironically Rakishev's revenge - a movie titled "My Brother Borat" - won't be shown in Kazakhstan
either. It turns out the people portrayed as rogues and ruffians with thick, unwashed hides are
really very sensitive.

"We wanted to show that we too are a dynamic modern state with good and bad qualities. We are not
barbarians. But there are many embarrassing moments. Some people might take it badly." ERKIN
RAKISHEV Film Director

But look more deeply into this enormous land-locked, oil rich and prosperous place - as
Correspondent Eric Campbell has for this week's program - and you'll find a place with a host of
profound problems and disturbing realities; a President with little regard for democracy and
freedom of speech, who has grown astoundingly wealthy in the post-Soviet boom-time and who is
turning the capital in a multi-billion dollar vanity project many are predicting will soon be
officially renamed Nazarbayev. Kazakhstan has become his personal fiefdom.

Whatever the mood for change in the Middle East there'll be no popular uprising in Kazakhstan. In
his country President Nazarbayev rules the roost and has the last laugh.

Transcript

CAMPBELL: Some men spend a lifetime building a house. It takes a special man to build an entire
city. This is Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan. It's a pet project of a communist bureaucrat
who became a nation's president. His name is Nursultan Nazarbayev and his people can barely
suppress their joy at what he's giving them.

WOMAN TOUR GUIDE: "He is our leader. He is promoting Kazakh people to a bright future. He's very
respected by his people. Kazakh people always support their president".

CAMPBELL: President Nazarbayev and his family haven't done too badly for themselves either. They've
displayed stunning business acumen to become some of the richest people in Central Asia.

TATYANA TRUBACHYOVA: [Newspaper editor] "There's a persistent myth that if Nazarbayev leaves
whoever replaces him will be even worse... will steal more".

CAMPBELL: But even critics concede he's put a lot of the oil and gas revenue back into the country.
Nowhere more so than in the city that is his personal glory. It rises out of the steppe like
designer Lego. Nazarbayev has given the world's leading architects carte-blanche to let their
imaginations run wild.

Leading the pack is Britain's Sir Norman Foster with two buildings, a pyramid-shaped palace of
peace and a giant mall called Khan Shatyr in the shape of a nomad's tent. You can shop till you
drop at designer stores with designer prices. And you can even have a swim in the depths of winter
because the top of the tent is a constant plus 35 degrees even when outside it's minus 35. So it's
like Dubai, just the other way around.

Some might think it's all a bit extravagant, perhaps wasteful, even ridiculous - but don't tell
that to Kazakhs. Whatever they think of Nazarbayev, they're tired of being the laughing stock of
the western world. This is a proud and ancient land and some, like Erkin Rakishev want revenge on
Borat.

ERKIN RAKISHEV: "He's the devil. The devil's accomplice. The anti-Christ. The Satan. I'll destroy
him. Your Harold Holt disappeared without a trace. Borat will disappear too - but on dry land. Damn
it! I'll shoot him. I'll destroy him". [gets gun out of cabinet]

CAMPBELL: Please, please! No need, no need!"

ERKIN RAKISHEV: "I won't miss. My hand will not falter. He's done a lot of harm. A bad man.

CAMPBELL: Okay.

ERKIN RAKISHEV: "He's not a man - he's a Satan".

CAMPBELL: Rakishev is a well-known Kazakh film-maker, but the world's view on his country has been
shaped by Hollywood. British comic Sasha Baron Cohen played a fake journalist called Borat from a
Kazakhstan that was pure fiction. The film wasn't even shot in Kazakhstan, a mainly Islamic country
bordering China. Instead, Cohen used a gypsy village in Romania.

In the film, he travelled to the US to learn about modern culture. The joke wasn't so much on
Kazakhs as on the Americans he fooled. But few here saw the humour.

ERKIN RAKISHEV: In the first film when he showed Kazakhstan he made us look backward, uncivilised,
barbaric. For him it was a joke, but in national and religious matters it's easy to cross the line
between a joke and an insult. Democracy doesn't mean that everything is allowed. Every democracy
has its political correctness and its own human boundaries - ethical and moral boundaries. He
crossed the line".

CAMPBELL: Now Rakishev has made a film to set the record straight. Called 'My Brother, Borat', it's
a comedy about an American who finds the real Kazakhstan.

ERKIN RAKISHEV: He's curious to see this exotic country but when he arrives he sees something else.
Not the country from 'Borat' - not the fictional country in the film - but the real Kazakhstan. So
he can't figure out where he is. Then he recalls that in the film Borat says that he has a halfwit
brother in Kazakhstan. So he finds him in a psychiatric hospital. So there's a bit of the plot of
you".

CAMPBELL: But he says there's a serious point behind the humour.

ERKIN RAKISHEV: 'They should have some idea about Kazakhstan. There are modern cars in the streets
of Kazakhstan, sealed roads... skyscrapers...international companies. Kazakhs and Russians mix
together. There are different religions and races. I wanted to let them know. In that other film,
he filmed Gypsies in Romania. They live with animals... there's dirt and stink... they are uncivilised
barbarians. That's what he showed. I showed them modern Kazakhstan".

CAMPBELL: Since gaining independence from the Soviet Union nearly 20 years ago, Kazakhstan has
struggled to be taken seriously. It is a vast land of mountains and steppe, rich in minerals and
proud of its nomadic traditions. In a few generations it went from a wild, untamed frontier to a
Soviet colony. Now freed of Moscow's shackles, it sees itself as a rising global power, determined
to be recognised for its economic and political might. You may be surprised by how many politicians
great and small want a part of it.

Kazakhstan is of course nothing like the film Borat. If anything, it's even stranger. It's a
country that most people in the world know nothing of but world leaders can't get enough of because
it's chock full of oil and gas, strategically crucial and it's all run at the whim of just one man.

His contributions to Kazakhstan are on proud display at the Nazarbayev museum. Just slip on your
plastic blue shoe covers and enjoy the show. Back to back tours in three languages tell of his
humble origins.

TOUR GUIDE: "He was born and he grew up in simple family of Kazakh workers".

CAMPBELL: His academic brilliance.

TOUR GUIDE: "He was one of the best pupils of this school".

CAMPBELL: His life as a metallurgist and a poet.

TOUR GUIDE: "Nursultan Nazarbayev likes music. He likes to write poems".

CAMPBELL: And his stellar political career.

TOUR GUIDE: "Kazakh people elected Nursultan Nazarbayev as their first President".

CAMPBELL: His first election victory was helped by the fact that no candidate was able to stand
against him. But at every election since he's won with more than 90 per cent of the vote.

TATYANA TRUBACHYOVA: "This democracy is just a façade. We all know that the parliament doesn't make
independent decisions - definitely not on any issue that has political or economic implications. We
all know that election results are falsified. [showing Eric newspaper run] The pages are placed in
here".

CAMPBELL: Tatyana Trubachyova is the editor of Respublika newspaper in Kazakhstan's main city
Almaty. It's perhaps the only mainstream paper in the world that has to be photocopied then stuck
together by hand.

TATYANA TRUBACHYOVA: "The final stage is stapling the page using a foot-powered stapler.

CAMPBELL: The authorities not only regularly arrest the staff, they've also shut down their
printing press.

TATYANA TRUBACHYOVA: "No printer will touch our newspaper. I don't mean just in Almaty, but in all
of Kazakhstan. And now the next step is to stop us distributing".

CAMPBELL: The paper survives on sheer determination.

TATYANA TRUBACHYOVA: "It's a mystery to us because since the first publication over ten years ago
we've been criticising the government. The President's adviser declared that we are stirring social
unrest and racial tension. We don't exactly know what he meant. It appears that writing about the
social and economic situation in our country is a crime".

CAMPBELL: Gripes like that haven't stopped Nazarbayev being welcomed into the international
leaders' club. Western governments may be retreating from their closeness to Arab dictators, but on
the central Asian steppe it's business as usual.

PAMELA SPRATLEN: [US Charge d'Affaires] "Well I would say that President Nazarbayev is a very
intelligent leader, he's a very strategic leader. President Nazarbayev is a very shrewd leader".

CAMPBELL: "Would you call him a democratic leader?"

PAMELA SPRATLEN: "I would say that he has called himself a democratic leader and he has said that
Kazakhstan is a democratic country, a country that believes that democracy is the path forward".

CAMPBELL: Kazakhstan's vast energy resources may have something to do with those close relations.
We hitched a ride with a gas company to one of its many rigs. Developers have only scratched the
surface of Kazakhstan's vast reserves. It's thought to have at least 3% of the world's oil and
within the next decade, this somewhat barren looking land, could be one of the world's top five
producers.

BEIBUT SAURAMBAEV: "We are now at the Akyrtobe Underground Gas Storage - one of the three storage
facilities that belong to Intergas Central Asia".

CAMPBELL: Beibut Saurambaev, like many Kazakhs, feels the country is booming.

BEIBUT SAURAMBAEV: "President Nursultan Nazarbayev has definitely done a lot for our country's
development. We owe all our recent achievements to his personal involvement".

CAMPBELL: And thanks to its energy, Kazakhstan is doing far better than its impoverished Central
Asian neighbours. For millions, life is slowly getting better and the country is enviably stable.

Now the irony is President Nazarbayev is so genuinely popular he'd probably win any fair election
comfortably but the feeling here seems to be why take the risk? His regime has not only engineered
the system to ensure that parliament doesn't have a single opposition member, it's now planning a
referendum to make him president until 2020 meaning President Nazarbayev ensconced in his palace in
his third decade in power wouldn't have to face any elections at all.

The proposed referendum proved to be nothing more than a presidential ploy to boost his popularity
even further. Nazarbayev rejected it as anti-democratic and called a snap election saying he must
face the people.

PRESIDENT NAZARBAYEV: "In the years since independence we have planted the basic values of the
Kazakh way - freedom, unity, stability and prosperity".

CAMPBELL: But the only people who get elected here are Nazarbayev and his supporters. It's
effectively a one party state just like those regimes in Cuba and North Korea that the US keeps
criticising. But here the US sees things more charitably.

PAMELA SPRATLEN: "There is a I think a developing political diversity here. There are opposition
parties. They do not yet hold places in parliament but again these are discussions that we hold
from time to time with the government of Kazakhstan".

CAMPBELL: It's not just oil and gas that have made Nazarbayev the West's new best friend. It's also
the long-running War on Terror. Nazarbayev has opened rail, road and air links for transporting
non-combat supplies to Afghanistan. It's called the Northern Distribution Network, the NDN. It's
given the US and other NATO powers a vital alternative to Pakistan where supply convoys come under
constant attack.

PAMELA SPRATLEN: "The Northern Distribution Network is increasingly important for us and we're
delighted that Kazakhstan and our other partners are cooperating with us".

CAMPBELL: In December, Nazarbayev was given a singular honour normally reserved for leading
democracies. The world's largest regional security group, the OSCE held its summit in Kazakhstan,
with representatives of 56 nations. Its full title is the Organisation for Security and Cooperation
in Europe and it's Europe's peak body for issues like security, arms control and human rights.
Kazakhstan was even given the chairmanship for a year.

PAMELA SPRATLEN: "We think Kazakhstan is a country that has made great strides and will continue to
make great strides therefore we supported the decision to host the summit and our delegation was
led at a very high level by the Secretary of State".

HILARY CLINTON: "I thank the leaders at this table who have recognised...".

SERGEI DUVANOV: "I was ashamed. That was my first reaction. Ashamed that the leaders of the world's
democracies abjectly bent over backwards for a dictator. Then I felt shame towards the people for
whom I've written for twenty years to convince them that democracy is the true path - that normal
social progress is only possible in democratic countries...that people in the West are intent on
improving our life in the democratic sense".

CAMPBELL: Sergei Duvanov was once a popular television presenter and investigative journalist. Now
he bears the scars of political persecution. In 2000 he revealed that President Nazarbayev had
deposited millions of dollars into illicit Swiss bank accounts. The affair became known as
Kazakh-gate. Officials were quick to spring into action. They charged Duvanov with rape.

SERGEI DUVANOV: "In reality there was no rape, which was proven at the trial here in Almaty.
Nonetheless, I was sent to jail for three and a half years and I served one and a half after which
I was released on parole for good behaviour. That was the end of Kazakhgate for me".

CAMPBELL: It was, according to his wife Viktoria, a typical ploy of the Nazarbayev regime.

VIKTORIA DUVANOV: "So this is a trick which the President uses, the practice when they officially
charged criminal charged people with some crimes like a sexual harassment or rape or some economic
crimes but everybody understand that it's because of the politics".

CAMPBELL: As well as bearing the stigma of a rape charge, Duvanov says he was severely beaten for
smuggling out an article on prison conditions.

SERGEI DUVANOV: So a newspaper published it - you're looking at it now. About a week later at night
two men ran into my prison cell. I was half asleep and they beat me in that state, extinguished
their cigarettes on me and ran off. I think it was retribution for the article".

CAMPBELL: Sergei Duvanov now works for a human rights group, pursuing the case of another
imprisoned dissident. Yevgeny Zhovtis, a prominent human rights lawyer, was strongly critical of
Nazarbayev at a hearing of the US Congress. Soon after, he was involved in a fatal accident near
Almaty, hitting a drunk pedestrian who walked in front of his car.

SERGEI DUVANOV: "He admitted his guilt. He offered compensation to the family and obtained
forgiveness from the victim's mother. She actually lobbied for charges not to be laid".

CAMPBELL: The court sentenced him to four years in prison. His lawyers and may foreign observers
labelled the proceedings a farce.

LAWYER IN COURT: "A man's fate is at stake. He has defended human rights for twenty years.
Unfortunately we've been unable to defend his rights. I put to you that Yevgeny Zhovtis is a
political prisoner. I'm certain that there is no justice here today in this court".

CAMPBELL: The US Embassy insists it's raised concerns about this and other human rights abuses.

"Wouldn't you be a bit stronger though if it didn't have so much oil and gas and was not such a
strategic corridor to Afghanistan?

PAMELA SPRATLEN: "I think the United States has been making these points about democracy and about
human rights and the importance of adhering to international commitments all over the world".

CAMPBELL: The US and EU leaders at the OSCE summit bestowed a respectability on Nazarbayev that
most dictators could only dream of.

SERGEI DUVANOV: "It was a way of legitimising the regime. I was ashamed to be watching this
spectacle. After the shame came anxiety because this carte blanche that the summit has given
Nazarbayev is now letting him tighten the screws even more. There's a growing anti-western and
anti-US mood here. Many people who really wanted this country to have democracy are turning away
from it. They say "this is hypocrisy... we don't believe it". And that's why many people are turning
to Islam. I believe that this is political policy and encourages the people of Kazakhstan to turn
away from democracy".

CAMPBELL: But some are doing their best to change western feelings. Erkin Rakishev, like Borat, has
now travelled to America. He's determined to show his film here if and when he can find a
distributor. The irony is he won't be able to show it in Kazakhstan. The film contains digs at
Kazakhstan's nouveau-riche and he knows from past experience that the censors won't approve.

ERKIN RAKISHEV: "There are many embarrassing moments. Our mentality is such that people might take
it badly. So I will write that the film can't be shown in Kazakhstan. I made the film specially for
western audiences so they can see what it's like here. We are a young country, many people don't
know us - and whoever does, only know us from "Borat". We wanted to show that we are also a dynamic
modern state with good and bad qualities. We also have people here - not barbarians".

CAMPBELL: Despite our best efforts, nobody from the government was able to talk to us. We were told
they were too busy preparing for the April 3rd election, but there's no doubt who's going to win.
Whatever happens in the Arab world there'll be no revolution here. As the world's democratic
leaders showed in December, democracy in this oil rich nation can wait.