The sequel to the 2006 hit mockumentary Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan — or as it is popularly known, Borat, — released over the weekend. Titled Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, or simply Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, it immediately raked up its share of controversies.
For starters, the former Mayor of New York and the personal lawyer of US President Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani has called his cameo in the film “a complete fabrication”, on Twitter.
Similarly, some family members of Judith Dim Evans, a Holocaust survivor — the film is dedicated to her in the post credits— have filed a lawsuit against the film.
The moon blood scene in the film has also been at the receiving end of ire by many, who were not comfortable with menstruation being shown on screen.
What is the Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
In 2006, actor Sacha Baron Cohen became the most famous fictitious Kazakh in the world with his portrayal of Borat Sagdiyev, a TV journalist from the former USSR country. The film captured the journey of Borat and his producer who have come to the US to learn its culture, make a film and then head back to the biggest landlocked country in the world. The film, shot in a mockumenatry format, featured real people, many of whom had not even been informed that they were part of a film. The film satires and calls out the problems of America, and the world in the most offensive, in your face manner.
The sequel has Baron Cohen reprising the role of Borat, after a gap of 14 years, and he has been roped in to deliver a gift to the Vice President of the US, Mike Pence. Somehow, Borat’s 15-year-daughter ends up being on the trip to the US, and becomes the said gift for the US Vice President. Again, shot in the mockumentary format, the sequel has running gags on gender discrimination, antisemitism and American culture.
The Rudy Giuliani cameo
The former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani features in the film, but without his permission. Shot in a guerrilla fashion, the film has Tutar (Baron-Cohen’s onscreen daughter) posing as a journalist and interviewing Giuliani in a hotel. At the end of the interview Giuliani invites Tutar to the bedroom and is shown lying on the bed, with his hands down his pants.
There had been pretty suggestive behaviour by Giuliani even prior to the scene, where he patted the back of Tutar, and asked for her phone number. In the film right after Giuliani shoved his hands down his pants, Borat (Baron Cohen) enters the room wearing a revealing pink teddy, and screaming “”She’s 15. She’s too old for you!”. Giuliani then sits up, and asks, “Why are you dressed like this?” “She’s my daughter. Please, take me instead,” answers Borat. Giuliani responds with “ I don’t want you,” and storms out of the hotel room. “I don’t want you,” Giuliani replies. He then makes his way out of the hotel suite.
There has been global outcry over the scene and many have been concerned about Giuliani’s advances towards an underage girl. Giuliani himself has called the whole incident “total fabrication”, and has said that he was just adjusting his clothing after removing the microphone. A day before the film’s release, Giuliani took to Twitter, writing, “(1) The Borat video is a complete fabrication. I was tucking in my shirt after taking off the recording equipment. 2. At no time before, during, or after the interview was I ever inappropriate. If Sacha Baron Cohen implies otherwise he is a stone-cold liar.”
US President Trump, who is also parodied in the film with the actor seen wearing a Trump mask and a fatsuit replete with a red tie, has also responded to the Borat sequel.
Questioned by reporters on the whole Giuliani issue, Trump said, “I don’t know what happened. But years ago, you know, he tried to scam me. And I was the only one who said no way. That’s a phony guy…… “And I don’t find him funny. I don’t know anything about him other than he tried to scam me. He came in as a BBC – British broadcasting anchor. To me, he was a creep. Thank you all.”
Baron Cohen responded on Twitter. “Donald — I appreciate the free publicity for Borat! I admit, I don’t find you funny either. But yet the whole world laughs at you. I’m always looking for people to play racist buffoons, and you’ll need a job after Jan. 20. Let’s talk!”.
Antisemitism or Not?
Later in the film, when Borat is feeling betrayed by his daughter, he goes to a synagogue, because he is depressed and suicidal, and he will wait for a ‘mass shooting to take place’. Additionally he has just learnt through a Facebook page that the Holocaust was a hoax.
Borat enters the synagogue ‘dressed as a jew’, with an elongated nose and batwings. There he encounters Judith Dim Evans, an octogenarian who had survived the Holocaust, and who confirms to the fact that the Holocaust indeed did take place. The two hug and talk of world peace. The estate of Dim Evans is now suing the production because they feel that the film has caused mental anguish to Dim Evans, who passed away before the film was released.
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The Bloodmoon Dance
In a recreation of a traditional Kazakh fertility dance, Tutar is shown dancing at a Southern Debutante’s ball, while she is menstruating heavily. It’s not just the display of blood that has made people uncomfortable, but the scene preceding the dance where a genteel southern man comments that how he would sleep with Tutar for 500 US dollars.
The comment is heard by Tutar, who is visibly shaken and is in tears. While the joke fits into the large commentary on women in the film, and is a reflection of larger debates on gender and patriarchy around the world, it’s still one of the most jarring scenes in the film. 📣 Click to follow Express Explained on Telegram
Welcome to Kazakhstan
While the film has offended a whole tribe of people, Kazakhstan is not complaining. The central Asia country had been upset with the first Borat, but appears to have embraced the sequel. They have even adopted the catch phrase, “very nice”, uttered many times by Borat in the course of the film.
The country’s tourism board has even made a promotional film with the catchphrase. The film showcases the abundant natural beauty and also plays up the preventive Covid measures taken by the country.
The YouTube description of the film reads, “It’s a place you may have heard of, that’s nicer than you ever imagined. Where you can find endless steppe, sand, and epic mountain peaks just a short drive from a modern metropolis.”
Kazakhstan’s tourism minister even told The New York Times that they would love to work with Baron Cohen. “In Covid times, when tourism spending is on hold, it was good to see the country mentioned in the media…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.”