The glorious nation of Kazakhstan has (understandably) taken issue with Sacha Baron Cohen‘s depiction of both its people and country since the Borat character first appeared on Da Ali G Show – and even more so when Borat made his feature-length debut internationally back in 2006. But following the recent release of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Kazakhstan Tourism has decided to lean into a certain part of the narrative by adopting “very nice” as its official slogan.
Deputy Chairman of Kazakhstan Tourism Board – Kairat Sadvakassov – initially thought it was best to “let it die its natural death” without a public response (unlike last time). That was until he saw the value of Borat-related publicity, thanks to a pitch from Stanford graduate and US immigrant/Kazakhstani resident Dennis Keen.
“In COVID times, when tourism spending is on hold, it was good to see the country mentioned in the media,” Sadvakassov tells The New York Times.
“Not in the nicest way, but it’s good to be out there.”
Keen and associate Yermek Utemissov – who just so happens to help foreign film companies shoot in Kazakhstan for a living – received the greenlight approval almost immediately and produced four 12-second clips pro bono (linked below); thereby dispelling any myths and would-be perceptions of the country being a backwater hole fraught with antisemitic festivals, widespread incest, poor hygiene, and so forth.
Of course, this doesn’t mean everyone in Kazakhstan is entirely thrilled about Borat. According to Al Jazeera, an online petition with over 100,000 signatures have called to #cancelborat over racism. And as if the jokes alone weren’t bad enough, the film’s marketing team have been using Instagram and Twitter accounts impersonating the Kazakh government to promote its release.
On the flipside of reactions, when Sacha Baron Cohen himself learned what Kazakhstan Tourism were doing with “very nice” – in stark contrast to the drastic actions previously undertaken – he issued the following statement via email:
This is a comedy, and the Kazakhstan in the film has nothing to do with the real country.
I chose Kazakhstan because it was a place that almost nobody in the US knew anything about, which allowed us to create a wild, comedic, fake world.
The real Kazakhstan is a beautiful country with a modern, proud society – the opposite of Borat’s version.
Very nice, indeed.