Kazakh film industry hopes to erase 'Borat' image

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BERLIN. March 26. KAZINFORM  Fame is a hard thing to shake, especially fame as pervasive as the 2006 mockumentary "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America to Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan".

But Kazakh filmmakers are aiming to shake off the image of "Borat" and energize their country's movie industry with a big budget historical epic, "Myn Bala," which opens next month in theaters in the Central Asian nation, The Washington Times reports.

"'Myn Bala' is one of those projects which is important to give the country its identity," says Anna Katchko one of the film's producers. "It's also a coming-of-age story about falling in love, first fights, losing friends and gaining them again."

Telling the tale of 18th-century Kazakh warriors overthrowing Mongolian overlords, the movie is funded by Kazakhfilm - the former Soviet-era movie studio that now, as a partially state-owned enterprise, has been rebuilding Kazakhstan's film industry over the past three years.

Kazakhfilm not only provides funding for talented filmmakers in Kazakhstan but also promotes the country as a film location for foreign projects: Chuck Russell , director of 1994's "The Mask" and 2002's "The Scorpion King," is filming "Arabian Nights" - starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Sir Anthony Hopkins - in Kazakhstan with a reported $70 million budget.

"For many years all over the [former Soviet republics], there was almost nothing happening, few films were made," says Ms. Katchko. "In the past three years, there has been a lot of progress in Kazakhstan particularly."

"Kazakhstan offers amazing locations close to the ancient [former] capital of Almaty where the production studios are - forest, steppes, mountains, lakes - wherever you go, there is a different landscape," she says.

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