A Wandering Kazakh, Before Borat





AND you thought Genghis Khan was just the scourge of nations, the slayer of millions. Little did you know that he was, as a young man, a sensitive, enlightened husband and doting father.

That, at least, is how Kazakhstan’s new burgeoning film industry presents him in “Mongol,” one of five films vying tonight for the Oscar for best foreign-language film.

Call it, if you will, the Revenge of the Borats. Flush with oil profits, led by a prideful autocrat, this emerging petro-state is experiencing a cinematic boomlet led by KazakhFilm, the state-run movie company. “Mongol,” which was financed privately and directed by a Russian, is the country’s first Oscar nominee, a visually lush work that depicts the early years of the Asian steppes’ most famous ancient leader with graphic battle scenes to make Sam Peckinpah blush.

For many Kazakhs, the nomination is more than a milestone in the development of their film industry. It is evidence that this sparsely populated Central Asian state, which in Soviet times was primarily known for sheep herding, space launches and above-ground nuclear testing, is taking its place among the world’s more sophisticated nations.


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