I’m sure you’ve all seen the news: the new Borat film is out and causing just as much trouble as the first installation. Like the first film, the hilarity starts with the full title, which in this case is Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
Like the first film, Borat leaves his small village in Kazakhstan and heads to the United States. Also like in the first film, the motus operandi of Borat is to show America’s racist, sexist and bigoted underbelly by using a character from a country most of them have never heard of it. This time around he famously managed to get Rudi Guilliani (Donald Trump’s lawyer and former New York Mayor) literally with his hands down his pants.
The release of the first film led to legal challenges, diplomatic protests and widespread disgust from the people of Kazakhstan. The fact that the first time their country is portrayed in main-steam western media, it be shown in such a disgusting way, did initially really hurt.
This time around the overall perception has been markedly different. While there have still been small protests by Kazakh nationalists and Kazakhstan’s own small-minded bigots, the vast majority of Kazakhstani’s have come to terms with the fact that the film is not aimed at them and it really doesn’t reflect the amazing, beautiful, generous, hospitable country that this former Soviet Republic is.
And this is not unexpected. It’s been 14 years since the original film was released and since then, Kazakhstan has engaged more in the international community, Kazakhstanis travel in ever-increasing numbers, they study overseas and see themselves in much more global terms than they did when the first film was released. Not only that but until the Coronavirus, Kazakhstan was becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination and a sought-after expatriate destination, meaning the wonderful people of Kazakhstan know what the intelligent people of the world really think about them.
This massive turn around in opinion is best exemplified by the recent adoption by the Kazakhstan Tourism Board of the phrase “VERY NICE!”. The phrase synonymous with Borat is now one of the official slogans of Kazakhstan tourism and is the central theme of a new advertising campaign where they show the highlights of the country, such as Shymbulak, Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana), Charyn Canyon, Kazakh hospitality, fine dining and so on, with those visiting the sights exclaiming that what they’re seeing and what they’re doing is “Very Nice!”. The only problem with Borat is that his phrase should have been “absolutely amazing!”, because that’s what Kazakhstan is – absolutely amazing, and it’s truly great to see their recent change in attitude.