MOSCOW/ALMATY (Reuters) - Ridiculed once again in a film featuring fictional Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev, the ex-Soviet state of Kazakhstan has embraced the joke this time round and adopted Borat’s catch phrase to try to attract tourists.
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” a follow-up to a 2006 film featuring the same sexist and racist character, was released on Amazon Prime last week.
Like the first film, the movie has Borat on the rampage in the United States where he tries to trick U.S. politicians and others into letting their guard down and compromising themselves.
Borat’s first outing caused anger in Kazakhstan where authorities discouraged its screening and threatened legal action over what they saw as an insult to their national character.
This time round, they have taken a different approach and adopted Borat’s catch phrase “Very Nice!” to try to promote tourism in the vast Central Asian country.
In a slick video released by the tourism board featuring spectacular mountains and lakes, an exotic food market, and futuristic-looking cityscapes, a series of foreign tourists use the catch phrase to signal their appreciation for what they are seeing.
The idea to use Borat’s catch phrase belongs to Dennis Keen, a U.S. citizen living in Kazakhstan, who is married to a Kazakh woman and has a business running walking tours.
“It was something I’d been thinking about for years as everyone who comes here is aware of the Borat thing being attached to the country’s brand,” Keen told Reuters.
Borat’s “Very Nice!” catch phrase could be put to good use instead, he said.
“It’s actually the perfect description of the country in the most sincere way. The people and the food are very nice.”
Sacha Baron Cohen, the director and star of both “Borat” movies, said the films were comedies.
“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,” Baron Cohen said in a statement.
COVID-19 means tourism in Kazakhstan has been hard hit by travel restrictions and border closures like many other countries.
But Kairat Sadvakassov, Deputy Chairman of Kazakh Tourism, said he hoped the campaign would help people see that Borat’s jokes about the country were off target when the situation improved.
“We would like everyone to come experience Kazakhstan for themselves by visiting our country in 2021 and beyond, so that they can see that Borat’s homeland is nicer than they may have heard,” Sadvakassov said in a news release.
Still, Kazakh authorities remain unimpressed with the film.
In a statement issued by the foreign ministry on Saturday, officials said the new movie was racist and xenophobic, but that an official protest was pointless because it would only generate more publicity and profits for the film’s makers.
Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Giles Elgood
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