Review: Could Borat’s return to the screen shake up the American election?

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Review: Could Borat’s return to the screen shake up the American election?

Brigit Grant reviews Sacha Baron Cohen's new movie which opens today and advises the wearing of a mask. To cover your eyes.

Brigit Grant is the Jewish News Supplements Editor

Joe Biden is probably too distracted to send a thank you note to Sacha Baron Cohen – but he should. With Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, the British Jewish comedian has made the most persuasive party political broadcast for the Democrats and its a must-see for any pro-Israel American Jews about to vote Republican.

That he elected Kazakhstani journalist Borat Sagdiyev to subliminally push for a Biden victory, while exposing the easy bigotry, depravity and stupidity within certain parts of America is a testament to SBC’s bravado as the film –largely shot secretly during the pandemic – targets everyone from ‘Princess Melania’ to Trump suck-up Rudy Giuliani, who has hit the headlines for his performance in a hotel bedroom.

Remarkably Cohen, who lives in the States, was not put on the country’s most wanted list after Borat’s first mission of derision 14 years ago. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan gave the eponymous hero notoriety and its producers a ton of law suits, but as a co-writer, producer and the star, Cohen thankfully has an unabated appetite for the risky and risqué at the expense of the clueless.

Best of all, Borat, creator of the first male crotch to shoulder swimsuit (the mankini) is still funny in this new story which begins with his release from a gulag after a lengthy sentence for shaming his homeland.

The Giuliani scene in action

Freedom however comes at a price. Kazakhstan’s corrupt president wants to be besties with ‘McDonald Trump’ like other tough guy leaders such as Putin and Kim Jong Un and Borat’s full pardon is dependent on him delivering a gift to make that happen.

Without spoiler alerts (Giuliani would have benefitted from one), there is no way of describing Borat’s Texas odyssey, other than to say that when the first gift is damaged, the naïve plucky protagonist instead offers up his only daughter, Tutar (screen-stealer Maria Bakalova) to Vice President Mike Pence.

Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat Sagdiyev on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Oct. 19, 2020. (Screen shot from YouTube)

If I were Pence or Giuliani, I’d have a word with my security team, as Borat and Tutar get within a clear range and knee-touching distance to both men, though luckily for them SBC’s only interest is  giggles not guns.

Along the way we also get to hoot and hide in horror when Tutar, revamped from peasant to princess is escorted by her disguised Pa to a debutante’s ball in Georgia.

What ensues there is not for the faint-hearted or for anyone who trembles during Tampon commercials, but neither are the other encounters with people who never question Borat’s misogynistic, abusive behaviour and racist comments.

Sacha as Borat with Maria Bakalova as Tutar

Black Lives Matter gets support with the presence of Tutar’s kindly, but suitably suspicious baby sitter Jeanise, but she ploughs a solitary furrow.     In fact those who offend easily should give Borat a wide-berth as the willingness of a plastic surgeon to give breast enhancement to a 15-year-old, while admitting what he would do to her if left alone is vomit-inducing.

Of course SBC knows right-thinking people will be disgusted by this male’s sexist view, but is it right to offer it as entertainment?

I thought about this, but kept chuckling until Borat in Jew disguise (big nose, bat wings) entered a synagogue and met a Holocaust survivor.

Enraged by Tutar who had seen a Facebook post describing the Shoah as a lie, Borat’s pride over Kazakhstan’s involvement in the atrocity was under threat.

Was the annual festival and fireworks to mark their soldiers running the camps fraudulent?

Until the citizens of the ninth largest country in the world get wind of this plot line, the attention is on survivor Judith Dim Evans to whom the film is dedicated as she  passed away a month after filming ended.

The late Judith Dim Evans

Whether she was genuinely disarmed by Borat’s ignorance or informed ahead of filming (as alleged) Judith tells him she was a witness to the horror and dismisses the myth about big noses by pointing to her own petite one. To watch her quiet discomfort just days after Facebook finally agreed to ban the deniers was timely but tragic.

Cohen knows there are people who believe the falsehoods as his brilliant speech  to the Anti-Defamation League in 2019 revealed, but he would never know if they were  among the Texans in the film seeking Borat’s autograph when they spot him on the street.

Any dummy can laugh at the man with the funny accent (his language a mash of Ivrit); recognising facts within the humour of satire requires a brain.

Borat 2!

So when the film shows a Republican crowd championing a racist performer (SBC in disguise) and joining in on the “Wuhan Flu” song with its catchy lyrics “the US should chop up journalists like the Saudis do”, it’s doubtful they’ll grasp the real message.

A Borat movie about the ugly underbelly made for smart folk will also appeal to big-bellied fools voting for a President who peddles truth as fake news.

Yet despite my reservations about racist and conspiracy theorists spouting on screen, Borat the sequel offers much-needed hilarity and is even sweetly sentimental for a second or two.

You can always put your mask over your eyes when the going gets tough, but Sacha Baron Cohen  would be wise to keep his on. And never set foot in Kazakhstan.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is on Amazon Prime and in cinemas from today.

Watch a trailer here:


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