It was 14 years ago that comedian Sacha Baron Cohen brought his Kazakh reporter character Borat Sagdiyev to the big screen in "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." But, famously, the Central Asian country itself wasn't too happy about its citizens' portrayal in the hit film, which depicted men treating their wives as property and engaging various anti-Semitic acts, among other backward thinking ideas and customs. The country banned the film and went as far as to purchase a four-page ad in the New York Times to defend themselves.
Now, with the release of "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" to Amazon Prime, the response from Kazakhstan has been a bit more inviting.
"Very nice!", Borat's famous catchphrase, has been adopted by the country's tourism board as part of an advertising campaign highlighting Kazakhstan's architecture, food, art, and natural beauty. The four promotional videos feature tourists proclaiming each to be "very nice!" at the end of each.
Upon learning about the Borat sequel, the Kazakh tourism board quickly put the videos together and released them to coincide with the movie's release, according to a statement by the board.
"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, the deputy chairman of Kazakh Tourism. "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."
Sadvakassov spoke more to TripSavvy about the ads' timing and the impact of Cohen’s now-legendary character.
“We learned our lesson from the last release of the movie that overtly expressed resentment only adds up to the hype around the film," Sadvakassov told TripSavvy in an email. "So this time we decided to laugh with the actor and get 'dividends' by converting film viewership into potential tourists."
The beauty of Kazakhstan does not end with what you see in the promos, he added. "We are a country on the Silk Road, which is the most powerful travel brand in the world. Remnants of the past are all over the southern border of Kazakhstan—once part of the classic route connecting China and Persia," Sadvakassov said. "Nomadic culture has been well preserved in Kazakhstan: more than 5,000 years ago, the horse was first domesticated here, changing the course of history in many ways. Visiting villages and meeting local birds of prey hunters, going on horseback tours, sleeping in a yurt, and devouring real nomadic cuisine abundant with meats and dairy is an adventure of a kind." Sign us up.
The idea of using Borat’s catchphrase in a more positive light was the brainchild of Dennis Keen, an American living in Kazakhstan. Keen had seen the effect the film had on the public’s image of the country, especially back home in America, Sadvakassov said in an interview with CNN. "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."
Sadvakassov says while they did not work together regarding the timing or making of the ads, they would love to collaborate with Cohen in future projects.