Kazakh Film Aims for Oscar

ReutersSarsenova fixing her sunglasses Thursday at an Almaty news conference.
ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- The Kazakh-financed film nominated for best foreign film at this year's Oscars is a welcome creative boost to this Central Asian country that was so heavily lampooned by the hit "Borat" movie.

"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 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 the 2007 Oscars but did not win.

Director Sergei Bodrov Sr.'s "Mongol" is a story about survival and war tracing the early life of Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, played by Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano.

At the Feb. 24 Academy Awards in Hollywood, "Mongol" will compete against "The Counterfeiters" from Austria, "Katyn" from Poland, the Israeli war drama "Beaufort," and the Russian film "12," a remake of "12 Angry Men" directed by Nikita Mikhalkov.

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."