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“Very Nice!”: Borat Gives Name To The New Tourism Campaign In Kazakhstan

“Very Nice!”: Borat Gives Name To The New Tourism Campaign In Kazakhstan

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If you can’t beat them, join them—the government of Kazakhstan decided to embrace the famous catchphrase “Very Nice!” used by the fictional Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev. The country’s officials are making the most out of it, as a sequel to the popular mockumentary comedy film was released despite the previous threats to take legal action against Sacha Baron Cohen, the actor portraying Borat. Dennis Keen and Yermek Utemissov, two friends and cultural advocates of Kazakhstan, saw huge potential in using the probably world-famous catchphrase, especially considering the fact that the global pandemic imposed regulations and restrictions that halted foreign tourism activity. Bored Panda got in touch with Dennis Keen to find out more about the project and the story behind it.

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Kazakhstan is not always on the radar for top-choice destination travelling, so the local tourism authority released a new campaign

Image credits: Kazakhstan Travel

The infamous main character in the first movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan caused controversy in the representation of Kazakhstan. The joke was that its people were apparently drinking horse urine, treating women as property by keeping them in cages, and have their own version of running with the bulls where the latter were replaced by Jews. You can imagine that this didn’t go down too well with the people and the film was banned by the government of this former USSR country.

The campaign’s iconic slogan “Very Nice!” comes from Borat—a popular movie character portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen

Image credits: Amazon Prime Video

Dennis, who first came to Kazakhstan on a high school exchange program in 2005 and spent the summer living with a Kazakh family, noted that there are as many opinions as there are people. “Some are sensitive about the way Kazakhstan is portrayed in the films. Others find the absurdity of the films amusing, and would like to use Borat’s fame as an opportunity to tell the world about the real Kazakhstan.”

The creators of the video thought “Very Nice!” is actually a perfect phrase to describe what Kazakhstan is really like

Image credits: Kazakhstan Travel

The ads show tourists enjoying the local attractions and admiring the breathtaking scenery of the country

Image credits: Kazakhstan Travel

The authoritarian government of Kazakhstan previously attempted to take legal action against Cohen, who was also forced to take down the .kz domain that he had created for his portrayed character. Despite the conflict, Cohen was defended by the daughter of the former president, Dariga Nazarbayeva, who called upon the nation not to be afraid of humor. The actor was also invited to visit Kazakhstan by the deputy foreign minister and learn that “women drive cars, wine is made of grapes, and Jews are free to go to synagogues.” Following the success of the film that came out in 2006, Cohen released a somewhat surprise trailer and then premiered Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan on Amazon’s Prime Video in 2020.

Despite the previous controversy surrounding Kazakhstan and the first movie, Cohen released a sequel

Image credits: Sacha Baron Cohen

Well, as you might guess, Kazakhstan held its breath for a second, not expecting that another movie depicting their country extremely satirically was about to hit the screens. The deputy chairman of the tourism board, Kairat Sadvakassov, along with other officials, took a decision to ignore the new movie and not respond, hoping it would fizzle out. That’s where Dennis and his friend Yermek Utemissov, foreign film production associate, jumped through the window of opportunity to make the publicity work for the wellbeing of Kazakhstan and pitched a project to the tourism board with the main idea being to embrace Borat’s fame instead of just ignoring the movie.

And although the Kazakh government is skeptical about the Borat movies, they decided to embrace it

Image credits: Kazakhstan Travel

When Dennis saw the teaser for the sequel, he realized that Kazakhstan would be in the minds of people around the world and it would be a shame not to take advantage of that. He realized that Borat’s catchphrase “Very Nice!” is actually the perfect way to describe Kazakhstan: “It can mean so many different things — the people are so nice, the scenery’s really nice, the food is nice and so on.”

The short ads took around two weeks to produce and even breaks the stereotypes introduced in the Borat movies

Image credits: Kazakhstan Travel

One of the segments filmed in a local market shows a tourist tasting fermented horse milk

Image credits: Kazakhstan Travel

And, well, makes your mouth water with abundant local cuisine

Image credits: Kazakhstan Travel

Dennis, Yermek, and the talented video production team PhotoSafari.kz created four tastefully shot 12-second-long ads in just a matter of weeks, that show people walking around the most famous destinations and admiring the scenery, enjoying local food, and experiencing the hospitality of Kazakhs. One of the ads featured a tourist in the local market tasting kumis, fermented horse milk, that perhaps was the subject of Borat’s joke about the consumption of horse urine.

The videos also have birds-eye-view shots of the developed cities in the country

Image credits: Kazakhstan Travel

And it introduces some of the country’s architectural wonders

Image credits: Kazakhstan Travel

Image credits: Kazakhstan Travel

“The video received over a million views, and in the comments, people wrote that they had no idea Kazakhstan was so nice, and that they would love to visit as soon as they can. The story was picked up by The New York Times, BBC, CNN, NBC, The Guardian, and was picked up by media outlets around the world.  So of course, many people in Kazakhstan were proud that their country was getting such positive attention. Kazakhs love their country and are glad that the world was able to finally see what the country is really like, and they look forward to welcoming new visitors as soon as it’s safe to travel again,” shared Dennis.

The idea was created by Dennis Keen, who is originally from the US, living in Kazakhstan

Image credits: Kazakhstan Travel

Image credits: Kazakhstan Travel

And for Dennis, it was a happy accident that he ended up in Kazakhstan: “I was a geography dork with wanderlust, and when I was researching exchange programs, I thought it was crazy that they were sending American students to Kazakhstan. Like many Americans, I knew very little about the country (this was even before the first Borat movie came out!), but I knew just enough to want to learn more. What I found was a beautiful country with a fascinating history and a hospitable culture, and I just fell in love. I went on to study Russian and Kazakh in undergrad and grad programs in US, and moved here full-time in 2013.” Running his own walking tour company in Almaty, the largest city and the former capital, he ended up marrying a local and is now a proud dad.

Kazakhs are glad that the world is finally able to see what the country is really like

Image credits: Kazakhstan Travel

Image credits: Kazakhstan Travel

Like many countries in 2020, Kazakhstan’s tourism has been hit hard with travelling bans and restrictions, so the attempt to show the beauty of the country and represent what it has to offer could potentially be crucial to when travel resumes and tourists will be ready to get back on  the road. The creators of the “Kazakhstan. Very Nice!” campaign believe that the new globalized Kazakh generation that are using all the social network programs and avidly reading the internet will not take such offense as when the first movie came out. Although the country’s government is critical towards the film, the deputy chairman of the tourism board is pleased that during the pandemic, when tourism is at a standstill, they do get media coverage even though its satire is racist and xenophobic.

The creators of the ads and Kazakh Tourism are hoping to catch the world’s attention with the help of the Borat movies

Image credits: Amazon Prime Video

And actually, even the creator of Borat highlighted the fact that Kazakhstan is actually the complete opposite of how it is portrayed in the movie

Image credits: Amazon Prime Video

And although the Borat movies are supposed to be set in Kazakhstan, they were actually filmed in Romania. “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—the opposite of Borat’s version,” shared Sacha Baron Cohen in a statement released.

Image credits: Amazon Prime Video

“The real Kazakhstan is a beautiful country with a modern, proud society—the opposite of Borat’s version.”

Image credits: Kazakhstan Travel



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Aayushi Thakur
Ayushi is an ardent techie who has great liking to cover every development that is happening in the technology domain. She regularly visits different platforms to churn out important technical knowledge about different gadgets and share their reviews and insights that help visitors in making purchase decisions. She is the perfect person to connect with when you want deep insights from the world of technology.
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