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Borat: An Iconic Character Who Became More than Just a Film

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Sacha Baron Cohen returned as Borat 14 years after the first film showed the ugly face of America and tapped into the pop culture market by making phrases such as wawaweewa and jagshemash famous. But this time around, that’s not all that Borat does in his new film.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is not about subtlety either. In moments where we see a baker writing “Jews Will Not Replace Us” on a cake, a shop owner high-fiving Borat when he jokes about the number of Mexican children outgoing US President Donald Trump could fit in a cage, to a tanning salon employee readily answering the question “What colour is best for racist family?”, Borat uncovers the bigotry in a flat-out manner. Borat 2 will go down in history as one of the most talked-about films of the 21st century, undoubtedly.

When the trailer released, we got a hint that the film focuses on Borat and his daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova). The film’s release reportedly cost Amazon Prime Video a whopping $80 million. But it was not in vain. Amazon Prime Video announced that the movie, which released on October 23, was streamed by millions of viewers during its first weekend, which, if calculated against other streaming platform releases, even surpassed Disney’s Mulan.

Deadline reported that Cohen wanted to get the film released before the US presidential election. And it could be because the mockumentary has several politics-inducing scenes, including one in which Cohen bursts into a CPAC meeting featuring Vice President Michael Pence wearing a Donald Trump mask carrying Tutar on his shoulders. The decision by Cohen and Amazon Prime Video worked out with the audience, who went gaga over the film. So it made complete sense when Amazon Prime Video decided to go all out in their marketing strategies and sent a number of 40-foot semi-naked Borat inflatables down rivers in major cities.

But a film with such strong political statements undoubtedly faced several criticisms ever since it premiered.

The list of controversies starts with all the famous names who were included in the mockumentary but had no clue they were a set-up for Cohen’s next. The one that made several headlines was Rudy Giuliani, former New York city mayor and attorney to outgoing President Trump, who was questioned about his behaviour. 

In the film, we see footage from hidden cameras planted in a hotel bedroom showing Giuliani lying down on the bed with his hand in his pants while staring at Bakalova. At this moment we see Borat, dressed in lingerie, run inside the room claiming Tutar is only 15-years-old and too old for Giuliani.

Reacting to this scene in the film, Giuliani took to Twitter and said it was “complete fabrication”.

Cohen, on the other hand, suggested people should watch the movie and judge for themselves.

Cohen’s character didn’t shy away from politics in this film. For example, we see in a scene, Borat disguised as President  Trump barging in while Pence is giving a speech at CPAC, carrying a girl on his shoulders. When reporters asked Trump whether the scene might tarnish his image during elections, he said: “I don’t know what happened. But years ago, you know, he (Cohen) 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.”

“To me, he’s a creep,” Trump had said. Cohen replied and called him a “racist buffoon”.

But, Trump was not the only one lashing out at Cohen, though. The daughter of Holocaust survivor Judith Dim Evans filed a lawsuit against Amazon Prime Video, alleging that her mother was tricked into appearing in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. Evans is seen in a pivotal scene where she educates Borat about the Holocaust. In the scene, Borat, who is seen wearing an antisemitic costume, tells Evans that Facebook “taught” Tutar that the Holocaust did not exist.

Evans then educates him that the Holocaust did in fact exist. She ends the conversation by saying, “We are normal, exactly like you. Let’s make love, not war.”

Evans’ daughter Michelle Dim St. Pierre filed the lawsuit before the film’s release, asking for the scenes including her mother be removed and damages be paid for fraud and invasion of privacy. However, the lawsuit was dismissed and she eventually withdrew her plea. Cohen even went on to dedicate the movie to Evans, who died before its release.

Amidst all this, probably the most horrifying experience for Cohen was when he narrowly escaped a right-wing rally and hid in an ambulance.

The actor shared a video that shows him posing as a character called Country Steve during a rally in Washington. The video shows Country Steve singing a song about the Covid-19 pandemic, called the Wuhan Flu. As he sings the lyrics of the song, which include “Obama, what we gonna do? Inject him with the Wuhan flu.” Upon realising that the character wasn’t real, a crowd stormed the stage with guns  and Cohen ran for his life. Posting the video he wrote, “This was not the easiest movie to make.”

But the most recent controversy the film is facing concerns the semi nude posters of Cohen dressed in nothing but a mask. A report in The Times states that the poster has offended many French Muslims as Cohen appears almost naked, wearing a ring engraved with the Arabic word Allah.

The regional transportation group TICE took down the posters following huge uproar, where people called the posters “provocative, insulting and disrespectful” towards the Muslim religion, reported Variety.

Despite all this, Borat 2 will reportedly secure a place in the Oscars. The film, as a whole, talks about the failures of the Trump government and shows who and what America is.

Even the tourism board of Kazakhstan took advantage of the film’s massive following. Interestingly, the first film was banned in Kazakhstan because of some dialogues. The makers, too, had to face several lawsuits.

While most of the people in the country didn’t appreciate the film, this year, the tourism board launched four promotional videos for potential tourists by using the slogan “Very Nice!” which is used by Cohen as Borat. The video has been currently viewed more than 870,000 times on YouTube.

Deadline reported that the tourism board is now speaking with Amazon Prime Video to create further noise around promotional materials of the film.

In fact, the film’s popularity reached such heights that fans raised more than $100,000 for the babysitter in the film, who was loved for her moral compass. Jeanise Jones, 62, had no idea she was a part of the film’s franchise until she saw the trailer of Borat 2. She is seen passionately teaching Tutar about women’s rights and equality. After the film released. Jones’ pastor set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the woman, who he said has been unemployed due to the ongoing pandemic. Currently, the donations have exceeded $176,700. Reportedly, Cohen also donated over $100,000 to Jeanise Jones’ Oklahoma City community.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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