| USA TODAY
Sacha Baron Cohen reprises his infamous role in ‘Borat’ sequel
Sacha Baron Cohen reprises his infamous role as a silly Eastern European journalist in the satirical and savvy sequel ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.’
Kazakhstan is “very nice!,” according to a new tourism marketing campaign launched Monday by the country’s tourism sector in a nod to Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat” movies.
The Kazakhstan tourism board has embraced the catchphrase from the “Borat” movies for the first time to promote the country to visitors after previously rejecting the first “Borat” film for its derogatory portrayal of the nation situated between Russia and China. The sequel, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” which is out on Amazon Prime this month, has made waves in the U.S. and beyond.
“The first Borat film came out in 2006, and Kazakhstan’s government responded with outrage, banning the film and threatening lawsuits,” Dennis Keen, the creator of the tourism concept and an American living in Kazakhstan, told USA TODAY. “When the sequel came out this year, Kazakh Tourism decided to flip the script and have fun with Borat’s catchphrase, ‘Very Nice!’, adapting it for the country’s tourism campaign.”
Kairat Sadvakassov, deputy chairman of Kazakh Tourism, said in a release that the slogan is the “perfect description” for the tourism potential in the country.
“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,” Sadvakassov continued.
Sadvakassov added that the country wants people to experience Kazakhstan themselves by visiting in 2021 or later on so that they can see for themselves that Borat’s “homeland” is nicer than they might have heard.
Since 2017, the country has been offering travel visa-free to citizens of dozens of countries, including the United States — though that program has been temporarily suspended until Sunday.
The suspension began in April as the COVID-19 pandemic began to sweep the globe. Kazakhstan has seen more than 110,000 cases of COVID-19 and nearly 1,800 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins data.
The tourism campaign video’s description on YouTube touts the country as a place viewers may have heard of, but one that is nicer than “ever imagined.”
“You can find endless steppe, sand and epic mountain peaks just a short drive from a modern metropolis,” the description says. “Where garlicky Kazakh horse sausage meets spicy Uighur noodles. Where shopping malls have sandy beaches and glass spheres dot the horizon. Where people are so friendly, you might just end up at a Kazakh toi (a traditional wedding) after a few salams (hello!).”
“There was a recognition that the last approach was a missed opportunity,” Keen said noting much has changed since the first “Borat” movie was released. “Kazakhstan is a stronger, wealthier, more confident nation that is ready to have fun with Borat’s words and turn them to their advantage.”
While some are embracing the second movie, others in Kazakhstan are protesting the release of the sequel as a result of how the country is portrayed: In Borat’s fake version of Kazakhstan, women, who are not allowed to drive, are kept in “wife cages,” and one of the biggest celebrities is a monkey porn star who is also a government official.
But the frustration goes beyond the movie’s jokes at the country’s expense. Ahead of its premiere, the movie’s public relations team created fake Instagram and Twitter accounts for government officials of the nation, according to Al Jazeera.
One of the Twitter accounts has since been suspended, according to Twitter.
Fourteen years after the original “Borat” mockumentary, Sacha Baron Cohen is back as his most infamous role as a wildly uncouth reporter.
This time, Borat’s journey to America – filmed during the coronavirus pandemic – revolves around his teenage daughter, Tutar, and pranking unsuspecting participants, usually of the Republican persuasion.
Upon learning the slogan had been adopted, Baron Cohen told the New York Times that the film has “nothing to do with the real country.”
“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,” he said. “The real Kazakhstan is a beautiful country with a modern, proud society — the opposite of Borat’s version.”
“Borat” helped put Kazakhstan “on the map,” according to Keen. But Keen agrees that very few people in the United States know about the “real Kazakhstan,” which is the reason for the “Very Nice!” campaign, which “contains gorgeous footage of the country’s snow-capped peaks, colorful bazaars and futuristic architecture.”
“(The tourism board) looks forward to receiving many Borat fans to see just how very nice is homeland really is,” Keen added.
Contributing: Brian Truitt
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