Kazakhstan banned British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s first Borat mockumentary over its portrayal of the country but is now using his “Very Nice!” catchphrase in a tourism campaign.
The misogynistic, racist and homophobic fictional reporter Borat Sagdiyev returned to screens this month in a sequel to the first Borat film released in 2006.
The original film sparked outrage in Kazakhstan, which Baron Cohen said he chose as Borat’s native country because it was a place Americans knew nothing about.
But this time around, instead of shunning its mustached fictional compatriot, Kazakhstan is trying to use publicity around the movie to attract visitors.
Short advertisements released by its tourism agency on YouTube show visitors exploring the Central Asian nation’s landscapes, architecture and cuisine while remarking how “very nice” everything is.
“There had to be some way to take advantage of all the PR,” Dennis Keen, a US citizen behind the idea for the campaign, told AFP.
Keen, who lives and works in Kazakhstan’s second city, Almaty, said the catchphrase is “so versatile” that he and a friend decided to pitch the idea to the tourism agency.
“They were enthusiastic and it all went super fast,” Keen said.
The initiative was well-received by many but Borat has not won over all Kazakhs, who Keen said are “traumatised in some way” by the character.
Over 100,000 people signed a petition calling for the new film to be banned, while social media users slammed the movie using the Twitter hashtag #cancelborat.
The Kazakh American Association accused the sequel of promoting “racism, cultural appropriation and xenophobia” and sent a letter demanding that Amazon Prime, which is streaming the film, cancel its release.
After learning of the Kazakh ads, Baron Cohen told The New York Times in a statement that the country he created for Borat was “a wild, comedic, fake world.”
“The real Kazakhstan is a beautiful country with a modern, proud society – the opposite of Borat’s version,” he said.