14 years ago, Kazakhstan banned the infamous Borat film for its less than favorable depiction of the nation. Now, the country’s tourism board has adopted fictional character Borat Sagdiyev’s catchphrase in its new advertising campaign.
When the first movie came out, Kazakhstan’s foreign minister threatened to sue Sacha Baron Cohen. Since then, however, the country has done a complete one-eighty and is welcoming the free publicity the sequel to the film has recently produced. Funnily enough, the tourism board deputy chairman, told The New York Times: “We would love to work with Cohen, or maybe even have him film here.”
He also said: “The slogan offers the perfect description of Kazakhstan’s vast tourism potential in a short, memorable way. 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.”
An American expat called Yermek Utemissov was the one who persuaded the board to take on the catchphrase, arguing that the newer generation wouldn’t be upset by the Borat film and would appreciate the humor. He said: “They’ve got Twitter, they’ve got Instagram, they’ve got Reddit, they know English, they know memes. They get it. They’re inside the media world.”
Sadly, his prediction didn’t turn out to be entirely true. Kazakhs are still vexed, it would seem – last week, they sent an open letter to Amazon asking them to cancel the release of the second Borat film.
Cohen responded to the accusations of racism by saying:
“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 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.”
Sacha Baron Cohen also addressed the controversial scene with Giuliani and Tutar which you can read all about here.
Whether Borat is being very nice to Kazakhstan, I’ll let you decide.