When comedian Sacha Baron Cohen released 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 behavior by the titular character.
Nonetheless, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” became a smash hit and won Cohen numerous awards.
Last week, a sequel came out – but this time, Kazakhstan is responding differently.
The country’s tourism board launched a new campaign this week, adopting Borat’s viral catchphrase “Very nice!” as their official new slogan.
The campaign includes four promotional videos that show tourists exploring Kazakhstan’s local food, beautiful landscapes, bustling markets and cities. At the end of each short video, the tourists say some variation of: “Wow, very nice!”
The tourism board quickly put together the videos after hearing of the Borat sequel, and timed their campaign to coincide with the movie’s release, according to a news release. The campaign is intended to “celebrate Kazakhstan and show fans of the ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’ around the world why they should come visit this incredible country,” the release said.
“The slogan offers the perfect description of Kazakhstan’s vast tourism potential in a short, memorable way. 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,” said Kairat Sadvakassov, deputy chairman of Kazakh Tourism, in the release.
“We would like everyone to come experience Kazakhstan for themselves by visiting our country in 2021 and beyond, so that they can see that Borat’s homeland is nicer than they may have heard.”
For context: in the first Borat film, the character welcomes viewers to his hometown by introducing them to “the town rapist” and “the No. 4 prostitute in all of Kazakhstan,” his sister.
The film was released at a sensitive time; it came only 15 years after the country declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Kazakhstan was still figuring out its identity and how to communicate to the wider world when “Borat” thrust the country into popular culture – and not in a flattering 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 experienced Borat-based mockery while in the United States,” Sadvakassov notes. “So we were quite positive that turning the popular line of the character of Sacha Baron Cohen into a slogan would immediately be recognized and evoke smiles.”
They also put together the campaign in hopes it would attract visitors after the Covid-19 pandemic, which has decimated the travel industry, Sadvakassov added.
Tourism in Kazakhstan “took off” after the first Borat film came out, according to the news release – despite the authorities’ initial disapproval.
In the sequel, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” the character returns to the US on a mission to deliver a gift to Vice President Mike Pence in order to curry favor with the Trump administration and avoid a death sentence in Kazakhstan.
It premiered on October 23 on Amazon Prime.
CNN’s Brandon Tensley contributed to this report.