NUR-SULTAN – Kazakhstan has adopted the main catchphrase of the lead character in “Borat,” the controversial 2006 film – now with a sequel – by British director Sacha Baron Cohen about a Kazakh journalist who gives a negative image of the country, to promote tourism in the Central Asian nation.
The “Very nice!” phrase from the film sequel – titled “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” – has become the new slogan of a Kazakh Tourism campaign to attract visitors to the country.
“The violent reaction (by authorities) only increases the interest in the film and plays into the hands of Cohen’s team. That is why we decided to turn the inevitable to our advantage. We support this campaign and will promote it internationally,” Kazakh Tourism Deputy Chairman Kairat Sadvakassov told EFE.
Following the premiere on Amazon Prime of Borat 2, which once again portrays a negative image of the country, the publicly-owned tourism company created a series of videos with foreigners living in Kazakhstan about the country’s nature areas, people and food.
Two days after uploading on the company’s YouTube page, the video has gone viral and has been viewed more than 700,000 times.
The campaign was the idea of Dennis Keen, an American from California who lives in Kazakhstan, where he not only manages the WalkingAlmaty.com project but is also an ethnographer and tour guide in Almaty, the country’s largest city.
“The ‘Very nice!’ campaign does not take a position on the film itself. It is about taking a negative image of Kazakhstan and turning it into something positive,” Keen told EFE.
Keen believes Kazakhstan should “take a lighthearted approach to the film and Borat’s catchphrase.”
“‘Very nice!’ is the perfect phrase to describe the country. The phrase is so versatile: the Kazakhs are friendly (Very nice!), the cuisine is spectacular (Very nice!), the nature is breathtaking (Very nice!). It just works, while being a tongue-in-cheek nod to the film that everybody knows,” he said smiling.
The American remembered a trip to California, where the phrase was blurted out for every reference to Kazakhstan, copying the character’s intonation, and then the idea of recontextualizing it came up.
Sacha Baron Cohen is already aware of the campaign that uses his catchphrase, and has emphasized that his films are absolutely not intended to offend Kazakhstan.
“This is a comedy, and the Kazakhstan in the film has nothing to do with the real country. 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,” Cohen said in a comment to The New York Times.
Sadvakassov is not satisfied, however, and told EFE that Kazakh Tourism is trying to contact the actor so that he can take part in the campaign.
“We want to propose several ways of cooperation: travel to Kazakhstan so that he can see this country with his own eyes, and we propose a joint project,” he said, expressing confidence that Cohen will accept the proposal.