Bishkek or Bust!

While most of Lunghu’s readers were out there working to make the world safe for democracy (American-style), a small, dedicated cadre of civil servants was doing its part to spread the joyous message of homespun American folk culture in the far-off nation of Kyrgyzstan.   In case you missed it –and you definitely did– the US embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic yesterday sponsored a rodeo exhibition

…at the field of the Equestrian School (204a Elebesov Str., Bishkek).  … A rodeo is an important part of Western culture in the U.S. and features many different types of exciting events [such as] barrel racing, calf roping and even several games for children, like sheep riding!  There will be both American and Kyrgyz folk music.

Lunghu is guessing that one thing you don’t have to teach a Kyrgyz boy is how to ride a sheep.  Nome sane?

hearts & minds: the audience is smiling.

A quick scan of the Bishkek Embassy’s Facebook page reveals that the US cultural outreach program also includes screening a series of Hollywood Westerns:  some of the titles on offer include “Unforgiven,” “The Wild Bunch,” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.”  Yeah, nothing like emphasizing themes of vengance, vigilantism and corrupt officialdom to build bonds of trust with the Kyrgyz people.

On the other hand, to be fair, the Western film genre is definitely a cultural minefield for US diplomats.  (Or is it a double-edged sword?  Lunghu can never remember which metaphor works better.)  What other choices are out there?  “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon?”  Historically insensitive –on at least two continents.  “High Noon?”  Commie pacifist propaganda  –at least so said [right wing] critics at the time of its first release.  “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?”  Glorifies the violation of property rights –and offends certain moral sensibilities.  “The Magnificent Seven?”  Treads on the blurry line preserving Akiro Kurosawa’s intellectual property rights, and comes perhaps a little too close to inciting rebellion.  “McCabe and Mrs. Miller?” Warren Beatty runs a whorehouse –’nuff said.  They’re not showing “Deadwood” either.  How about “Blazing Saddles?”  Well, maybe not.

N is for Nostalgia

All in all, it looks like the State Dept. folks in Bishkek are doing a fair job of the cultural imperialism that best sustains the international interests of the United States.  After all, what films will they be showing at the Iranian embassy across town?  Or at the Russian embassy?  Thought so.  Ozer Kiziltan‘s “Takva” would be a good choice for the Turkish diplomatic corps in Bishkek, though.

In contrast, up to the north in Kazakhstan there’s a real opportunity for South Korean halyu diplomacy.  Lunghu strongly recommends that the embassy in Astana immediately begin organizing a Kim Jee-woon film festival, leading off with “The Good The Bad The Weird.”   Now that’s a film  –an “Eastern” action flick–  with all kinds of cultural resonance for Kazakhs!


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