Kazakhstan didn’t think the first Borat film was very nice.
Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen first released his satirical mockumentary about a fictional Kazakh reporter named Borat Sagdiyev in 2006, prompting outrage among Kazakh viewers and authorities who said it reeked of offensive stereotypes.
Despite its brash depictions of Kazakhstan as misogynistic, homophobic and anti-Semitic, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" was still a worldwide hit, mind you, and Cohen went on to win awards and critical acclaim for his convincing portrayal of the moustachioed journalist.
Now, the transcontinental country located in Central Asia and Eastern Europe is having a change of heart about the comedy franchise, which, in a nut shell, features unscripted (and often cringe-worthy moments) of Borat interacting with real Americans who believe he is a foreigner with little or no understanding of American life and customs.
Coinciding with last week’s Prime Video release of “Borat 2” – “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” being the official title – Kazakh Tourism has released a new campaign that uses Borat's viral catchphrase "Very nice!" as an official slogan.
Four 'very nice' scenes
The tourism board’s upbeat campaign features four inspiring scenes depicting tourists experiencing Kazakhstan’s beautiful scenery, food, architecture and culture.
There’s a hiker holding a selfie stick, admiring snow-capped mountains, who proclaims, “Very nice!”
Then there’s a traveller drinking fermented horse milk at a market, who, after lowering his face mask, says, “Mmm. That’s actually very nice.”
Then it’s off to the city centre, where a tourist marvelling at Kazakhstan’s cityscape remarks, “Wow, very nice!”
The fourth vignette shows a couple taking a photo of Kazakhs in traditional dress, and saying, “That’s very nice,” upon reviewing their picture.
A "perfect description"
Despite its initial outrage, the Borat franchise has actually helped in attracting travellers to Kazakhstan.
"[The slogan] offers the perfect description of Kazakhstan’s vast tourism potential in a short, memorable way," Kairat Sadvakassov, deputy chairman of Kazakh Tourism, told the Huffington Post. "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.”
If you can’t beat them, join them, as the saying goes.
According to a story in the New York Times, the idea to use Borat’s slogan originated from an American who now lives in and provides tours of Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty.
The man, named Dennis Keen, told the newspaper that he got the idea while pausing his tours due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I’ve had a lot of free time,” Keen told the New York Times. “Also, I just had a baby. When he grows up, I don’t want him to be ashamed of Borat. I want him to say, ‘That’s when my dad started this whole fun project.’”
Cohen has previously spoken in admiration of Kazakhstan, clarifying that his comedy has nothing to do with the country, calling the real Kazakhstan “beautiful” with a “modern, proud society — the opposite of Borat’s version."
As reads the tourism board's description of the video on YouTube, Kazakhstan is a "place you may have heard of, that's nicer than you ever imagined. Where you can find endless steppe, sand, and epic mountain peaks just a short drive from a modern metropolis.
"Where garlicky Kazakh horse sausage meets spicy Uighur noodles. Where shopping malls have sandy beaches and glass spheres dot the horizon."
Where people are so friendly, you might just end up at a Kazakh toi (a traditional wedding) after a few salams (hello!)"
"How can you describe a place this surprising in just two words? As a wise man one said, "Very nice!"
Watch Kazakh Tourism's video here!
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