Kazakhstan embraces Borat catchphrase in new tourism campaign: ‘Very nice!’

(CNN) – When comedian Sacha Baron Cohen published his satirical mockumentary about the fictional Kazakh reporter Borat Sagdiyev in 2006, it was banned in Kazakhstan.

Kazakh viewers and authorities denounced the film’s portrayal of their country, saying it was full of offensive stereotypes and behaviors from the title character.

Nonetheless, “Borat: American Cultural Insights for a Glorious Nation in Kazakhstan” was a huge hit and Cohen won numerous awards.

A sequel came out last week – but this time Kazakhstan reacts differently.

The country’s tourism authority launched a new campaign this week in which Borat’s viral catchphrase “Very nice!” as their official new slogan.

The campaign includes four promotional videos showing tourists exploring Kazakhstan’s local food, beautiful landscapes, vibrant markets and cities. At the end of each short video, tourists say a variation of: “Wow, very nice!”

The tourism authority quickly compiled the videos after hearing about Borat’s sequel and, according to a press release, planned their campaign to coincide with the film’s release. The campaign is to “celebrate Kazakhstan and show fans of the” Borat Subsequent Movie “around the world why they should visit this incredible country,” the press release said.

“The slogan offers the perfect description of Kazakhstan’s enormous tourist potential in a short, unforgettable way. Kazakhstan’s nature is very beautiful; its food is very good; and, despite Borat’s jokes to the contrary, its people are among the most beautiful in the world,” said Kairat Sadvakassov, deputy Chairman of Kazakh Tourism, in the press release.

“We want everyone to experience Kazakhstan for themselves in 2021 and beyond so that they can see that Borat’s homeland is more beautiful than he may have heard.”

In context: In the first Borat film, the character greets viewers in his hometown by introducing them to “the city rapist” and “the number 4 prostitute in all of Kazakhstan”, his sister.

The film was released at a sensitive time; It came just 15 years after the country declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Kazakhstan was still figuring out how to identify it and how to communicate with the world when “Borat” pushed the country into popular culture – and unflattering light.

Dennis Keen, an American living in Kazakhstan, came up with the idea of ​​using Borat’s catchphrase in the campaign, Sadvakassov said.

Keen had “just like me seen ridicule in Borat,” notes Sadvakassov. “So we were pretty sure that the instant transformation of the popular line of Sacha Baron Cohen’s character into a slogan would be instantly recognized and smiled.”

They also put the campaign together in hopes that it would attract visitors after the Covid-19 pandemic that has decimated the travel industry, Sadvakassov added.

Tourism in Kazakhstan “picked up” after the first Borat film was released, the press release said, despite initial disapproval from authorities.

In the sequel, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Bringing an Amazing Bribe to the American Regime to Support the Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” the character returns to the United States to present Vice President Mike Pence with a gift to bestow the Trump administration and avoid a death sentence in Kazakhstan.

It premiered on Amazon Prime on October 23rd.

CNN’s Brandon Tensley contributed to this report.

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