Kazakhstan’s been resisting, rejecting, and rolling its eyes at Sacha Baron Cohen’s satirical depiction of the country since Borat was merely a supporting character on Da Ali G Show. Now, following the release of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, the board of tourism is throwing up its hands and leaning into the free press. Baron Cohen portrays the country as dirty, antisemitic, and riddled with incest, sure, but, in the age of COVID, any publicity is good publicity.
“In COVID times, when tourism spending is on hold, it was good to see the country mentioned in the media,” Kairat Sadvakassov, the deputy chairman of Kazakhstan’s tourism board, told The New York Times. “Not in the nicest way, but it’s good to be out there.”
Sadvakassov’s first instinct, however, was just to “let it die its natural death and not respond.” The efforts of Dennis Keen, an L.A. transplant in Kazakhstan, changed that. Keen and a colleague, Yermek Utemissov, pitched a new slogan based on the film—“Kazakhstan. Very nice!”—and, after getting approval, produced four shorts highlighting the country’s natural wonders, urban sprawl, and cuisine. “Very nice,” declares each of the ad’s tourists, none of whom, thank god, do so in a neon mankini.
Watch them below:
According to Utemissov, Kazakhstan’s younger, web-savvy citizens aren’t as concerned as their parents were with Baron Cohen’s depiction of the country, which is rooted less in reality than in American stereotypes of foreign countries. “They’ve got Twitter, they’ve got Instagram, they’ve got Reddit, they know English, they know memes,” Yermek Utemissoy said. “They get it. They’re inside the media world. We’re looking at the same comedians, the same Kimmel show. Kazakhstan is globalized.”
Baron Cohen seems relieved that the country is no longer decrying him. “This is a comedy, and the Kazakhstan in the film has nothing to do with the real country,” he wrote in a statement. “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.”
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