Kazakhstan, which once banned and hated Borat, has given in and adopted his signature phrase in a tourism advertising campaign.
“Very nice!” is the phrase is used by the fictional journalist from Kazakhstan created by actor Sacha Baron Cohen.
The first Borat film caused outrage in the central Asian ex-Soviet nation when it was released in 2006. Authorities threatened to sue Cohen, the film was banned, and Kazaks could not access its website.
More worryingly, some citizens made threats against Cohen, offended at being the object of fun.
But, in a dramatic about face, the Kazakhstan tourism board has now decided it can’t beat Borat. Instead, it will embrace him as a marketing tool – a change of heart that came just as his follow-up mockumentary was released.
In recent days, the tourism board has released several short advertisements highlighting Kazakhstan’s scenery and culture. The campaign – “Kazakhstan … Very Nice!” – also features people using Borat’s catchphrase.
“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,” Kazakh Tourism deputy chairman Kairat Sadvakassov said.
The board was reportedly persuaded to use the catchphrase by American Dennis Keen and his friend Yermek Utemissov. They pitched the idea and produced the advertisements.
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Despite that, not everyone is happy about the sequel – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm – which hit streaming services nearly a week ago.
The Kazakh American Association slammed it for promoting “racism, cultural appropriation and xenophobia”.
“Why is our small nation fair game for public ridicule?” the group complained in a letter to Amazon, which is streaming the film.
In Kazakhstan, according to the BBC, more than 100,000 people signed an online petition demanding the mockumentary’s cancellation after a trailer was released.
“They completely desecrate and humiliate Kazakhstan and the dignity of the Kazakh nation,” the petition said.
Others on social media have branded the film as a “stupid American comedy”.