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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.