It only took 14 years, one film and another Subsequent Moviefilm, but looks like Sacha Baron Cohen's iconic character, Borat, and Kazakhstan's government may be on their way to reaching "very nice," erm, slightly more amicable terms. Earlier this month, the Central Asian nation, who famously banned the movie, threatened to sue Cohen, and published a four-page advertisement in the New York Times defending themselves after the film's 2006 release, seems to have experienced a change of heart about our favorite fictional Kazakh journalist, adopting Borat's "very nice" catchphrase as their own in a new tourism campaign.
According to the deputy chairman of the country's tourism board, the nation's original plan for handing Borat's latest film was quite different. "It was like, 'Oh, again?'" Kairat Sadvakassov said seeing the film's trailer back in September. Wanting to steer clear of "overreacting" and looking "foolish" at the hands of Cohen, they decided the best course of action would be to ignore the movie entirely, the New York Times reported. "The decision was made to let it die its natural death and not respond."
Enter Dennis Keen, an American-born Almaty tour guide, Kazakh travel show host, and self-described "American Borat." After learning about Borat's new big-screen endeavor, he says he thought his country should run with their famous fictional resident's iconic slogan, an idea he says he came up with during quarantine. "I've had a lot of free time," Keen, whose business suffered amid the Covid-19 pandemic, explained. "Also, I just had a baby. When he grows up, I don't want him to be ashamed of Borat. I want him to say, 'That's when my dad started this whole fun project.'"
Keen and one of his friends pitched his idea for the slogan "Kazakhstan. Very nice!" to his country's tourism board two weeks ago, and received an instant green light. Since then, the duo has put together four short videos, all of which feature tourists marveling at the nation's sights, views, food, and culture, responding each time with an emphatic "very nice."
And it turns out Borat himself approves. "This is a comedy, and the Kazakhstan in the film has nothing to do with the real country," Cohen wrote in a statement after learning of the campaign. "I chose Kazakhstan because it was a place that almost nobody in the U.S. 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."
Kazakhstan -- very nice AND Sacha Baron Cohen approved.