Kazakhstan Not So Sour on Borat These Days

It's a turnaround from 2006
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2020 2:10 PM CDT

When the first Borat movie was released in 2006, the government of Kazakhstan, outraged by the portrayal of the country as an impoverished, anti-Semitic backwater, banned it and threatened to sue Sacha Baron Cohen. This time around, they've decided that there's no such thing as bad publicity. The Guardian reports the country's tourism board has adopted the character's "Very Nice!" catchphrase for an ad campaign highlighting the country's culture—and scenery more impressive than the dilapidated Romanian village where parts of Borat were filmed. "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," Kairat Sadvakassov, deputy chairman of Kazakh Tourism, said in a statement.

The campaign was thought up by Dennis Keen, an American who runs a travel company in Almaty, the country's biggest city, the New York Times reports. "I've had a lot of free time,” Keen says. "Also, I just had a baby. When he grows up, I don't want him to be ashamed of Borat." So he and a friend made the pitch to the tourism board and got the go-ahead to make four 12-second videos. Cohen issued a statement praising Kazakhstan after learning that authorities had embraced the character. "This is a comedy, and the Kazakhstan in the film has nothing to do with the real country," he said. "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." (More Kazakhstan stories.)

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