Borat Revisited: Film, Image Building, and Emerging Tourism in Kazakhstan
Middlesex University Dubai
This research examines the relationship of film representations with an emerging tourism in Kazakhstan and Central Asia. It argues that films depicting Kazakhstan will support the future development of tourism’s potential in the Central Asian country. I further argue that the film industry’s globalization processes of production, distribution and exhibition are interconnected with this tourism development and serve as an effective promotional strategy. Although the film Borat (2006) made fun of an imaginary Kazakhstan, the country had responded to these misrepresentations with an image building multi-million dollar ‘Heart of Eurasia’ campaign and the production of feature films showing the country’s mythic past. As the only Central Asian country to be nominated for an academy award with the Genghis Khan biography ‘Mongol’ in 2008 Kazakhstan has used film to counter what it perceived as negative representations. It has a well-developed film production infrastructure and a government commitment to fund production. Yet recently it has also come to realize that Borat has had a positive influence and boosted its tourism.
Although tourism in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic and the ninth-largest country by area, has been largely underdeveloped, its government has now started a tourism initiative,’ Tourism Industry Development Plan 2020’. Its goals include seeking investment, the creation of new jobs in a tourism industry and increasing tourism’s contribution to the country’s GDP. This is at a time when it is launching a ten part television series Kazakh Khanate, based on Game of Thrones, as a ‘visual extravaganza’ of its history and the establishment of the first Khanate in 1465. Targeting Chinese, Turkish, and English speaking markets, this series may generate appealing representations for the growth of tourism. The research for this paper uses an analysis of industry trade press and industry data for production, exhibition and distribution within a theoretical framework of Tomlinson’s theory of globalization and culture. This theory is based on the conceptualization of cultural representations and economy as forming complex connectivities in global markets. This research analyzes these connectivities to better understand the synergistic relationship of film and the tourism. It concludes that new film representations may have a positive influence for tourism growth in Kazakhstan.
Dr. Lucyann Kerry has worked in the media industries and as a media educator for many years, beginning as an independent filmmaker in Washington, DC. Early in her career, she served as the head of the DC filmmakers association, WAFVL, and as a member of the DC Film Commission prior to relocating to New York City to work in public relations, marketing and television syndication. She began working internationally in the 1990s and has worked in Guam, Belgium, Estonia, the Middle East and Central Asia. Her experiences in Kazakhstan were the basis for her research in its film representations and its film industry. Lucyann has a Master’s degree from the University of Southern California Cinema School, and a Ph.D. from the University of Exeter, with a research emphasis in genre storytelling, specifically the British romantic comedy, and the business practices of the British company, Working Title Films.
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