Kazakhstan, home of the fictional journalist Borat, has appropriated the eponymous character’s catchphrase, ‘very nice!’ for a new tourism ad campaign, marking a new phase in the nation’s rocky relationship with the films.
National tourism agency Kazakhstan Travel released a video online on Monday showing a compilation of the new ads and revealing that the phrase is now the “official new slogan” of the country’s tourism industry. The videos were even subtitled “Borat response.”
The shorts clips show tourists hiking in the mountains, drinking fermented horse milk, and taking a picture with Kazakhs in traditional dress. At the end of each clip, the happy travelers declare that the experience was indeed “very nice!”
The campaign was the brainchild of Dennis Keen, an American-born travel agency manager living in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty.
“In Kazakhstan, there’s pre-Borat and post-Borat,” Keen told the New York Times. He explained that, in his opinion, the nation can’t escape Borat’s cultural influence, so the logical move was to try and embrace it rather than reject it.
The Kazakh national tourism board eagerly accepted Keen’s idea – however, that was a far cry from the country’s initial reaction to the film.
Both the original ‘Borat’ in 2016, and the recent sequel, which inspired the ‘very nice’ ads, took some hefty comedic liberties, showing Kazakhstan as rural, uncultured, and primitive. The original film sparked outrage in the country and the government said it would count on movie theaters to not show it.
However, Kazakh tourism board Deputy Chairman Kairat Sadvakassov said the 2020 ad campaign is quite apt. “Kazakhstan’s nature is very nice. Its food is very nice. And its people, despite Borat’s jokes to the contrary, are some of the nicest in the world,” he said in a statement.
Actor Sacha Baron Cohen himself told the Times that his portrayal of Kazakhstan in the movies has “nothing to do with the real country” and that he created a “wild, comedic, fake world.”
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