Kazakhstan, which banned the first ‘Borat’ movie, has turned the film’s famous catchphrase, ‘very nice,’ into its new tourism slogan

  • When the first "Borat" film came out in 2006, the Kazakh government banned the movie and took out ads refuting some of the "facts" the movie presents about the country.
  • But when "Borat 2" dropped last week, the Kazakh tourism board jumped on the opportunity to turn one of Borat's most famous catchphrases into a tourism slogan.
  • A Los Angeles transplant who lives in Kazakhstan pitched the idea and created four short spots using the slogan "Kazakhstan. Very nice!"
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After initially banning the first "Borat" movie in 2006, a comedy in which actor Sacha Baron Cohen plays Borat, a Kazakh TV reporter, Kazakhstan has now accepted the attention the "Borat" films bring to the country.

In fact, it's even highlighting it.

In 2006, the Kazakh government banned the first "Borat" film and took four-page ads out in various newspapers to refute many of the "facts" about Kazakhstan in the film, which depicts the formerly Soviet country as a place where women are kept in cages, prostitution is a primary industry, and antisemitism and homophobia are rampant.

But Kairat Sadvakassov, the deputy chairman of Kazakhstan's tourism board, said that this time around, the government was determined to keep its cool. 

Initially "the decision was made to let it die its natural death and not respond," Sadvakassov told the New York Times regarding the release of "Borat 2" on Amazon on October 23, 2020.

But, thanks to a savvy pitch from a couple of fans, the tourism board reconsidered and decided to adopt one of Borat's most famous catchphrases, "very nice." 

"In COVID times, when tourism spending is on hold, it was good to see the country mentioned in the media. Not in the nicest way, but it's good to be out there," Sadvakassov told the New York Times.

According to the New York Times, the idea to create tourism ads based on the movie came from Dennis Keen, a Los Angeles transplant who first came to Kazakhstan on a summer exchange program in 2005. He's now married to a local, hosts a travel show on local TV, and runs a business offering walking tours. "I'm kind of like the American Borat," Keen told the New York Times.

As the owner of a tourism-based company during a global pandemic, Keen said he had a lot of time on his hands. He also didn't want his newborn son to be ashamed of his home country when he grew up.

When the trailer for the film, which was shot in secret, was released in late September, Keen and a friend, Yermek Utemissov, pitched tourism ads featuring the slogan "Kazakhstan. Very nice!" to the board of tourism. Once approved, they quickly shot four short spots featuring the slogan for free.

The spots depict Kazakhstan's natural beauty, local traditions, and regional cuisine, with people in them noting that they are "very nice."

"This is a comedy, and the Kazakhstan in the film has nothing to do with the real country," Baron Cohen told the New York Times in a statement. "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."

While the sequel does not show Kazakhstan in any better light than the first film did, Utemissov believes that the times that have changed and the younger Kazakh generations see the movie for what it is: A satire.

"It's a newer generation," he told the New York Times. "They've got Twitter, they've got Instagram, they've got Reddit, they know English, they know memes. They get it. They're inside the media world. We're looking at the same comedians, the same Kimmel show. Kazakhstan is globalized."

Dennis Keen and representatives for Kazakhstan's tourism board did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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