No, it’s not wawaweewa, but that’s what Kazakhstan is hoping you’ll say when you realize the country is not, as both Borat films would suggest, one gigantic anti-Semitic backwater where women sleep in cages and the nation’s biggest celebrity is a monkey named Johnny. According to the New York Times, while the authoritarian Kazakh government rebuked the first Borat film in 2006, the country has now adopted one of his saying as an official tourism slogan, inspired by the release of Sacha Baron Cohen’s second film featuring the Kazakh journalism, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. The slogan? “Very nice.”
The idea was reportedly brought to the country’s tourism officials by Dennis Keen, himself an American-born host of a travel show on Kazakh television and the owner of a walking tour company, and Yermek Utemissov. The pair shot several short spots about the country, including one that features a tourist sampling fermented horse milk and declaring it, you guessed it, very nice.
“In COVID times, when tourism spending is on hold, it was good to see the country mentioned in the media,” Kazakhstan’s tourism board deputy chairman Kairat Sadvakassov told the Times about the new Borat sequel. “Not in the nicest way, but it’s good to be out there. We would love to work with Cohen, or maybe even have him film here.” Scenes of the Kazakhstani village depicted in the Borat movies were shot in Romania.
“This is a comedy, and the Kazakhstan in the film has nothing to do with the real country,” Baron Cohen said in a statement to the Times when told about the campaign. “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.”