Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Larry Charles :: USA :: 2006 :: 1h30

Kazakhi reporter Borat is sent to make a documentary of the United States. On arrival he falls in love with the image of Pamela Anderson and travels to the other side of the country to ask for her hand in marriage, shocking people with his bizarreness along the way.

For anyone who does not already know, Borat is a character developed by the English comedian Sacha Baron Cohen for his TV-show (Da Ali-G Show). The character is a naive implicitly bisexual homophobic sex-obsessed misogynist anti-semite who confronts the general public with his prejudice and absurdly deviant tales to provoke reactions. The humor lies partly in the ridiculous tales he tells people and partly in the recorded reactions of the public.

The movie is extremely original and very funny, as was the run-up to the launch of the movie, where Mr Cohen travelled around the world promoting his film as the character Borat himself. During the movie, the viewer does not really have the time to question how much of the public reactions is real and how much is a set-up. On hind sight, I would presume most of it is set-up, but your guess is as good as mine.

Unlike in his TV-show, we see mostly people of the general public, who all seem to react in one of three ways : either they accept the most bizarre tales without question (probably thinking they did not hear it right or out of politeness), or they share their own hate-mongering views, or they just turn aggressive.

In real life, the Kazakhi government was not amused by this parody, but they are not the ones who should be worried – the image of Kazakstan presented is incredulously outrageous. The real parodied target is the US public. Personally, I am not much of a fan of reality-show type provocation. There within, the US public is an easy target (problematic race relations and religiously inherited homophobia). In filming an unsuspecting public, people say all kinds of things they do not really mean when they are just living their lives. Of course the film spectator does not know what is real and what is not, but the reactions have a certain credibility to them.

The movie is probably funnier if you are an American yourself then if you are not, but contrary to many critics, I do not feel there are any lessons to be learnt here. If anyone learned anything it will have been Cohen himself, as he was really there. You would need to be very strong-willed not to go in to watch Borat after all the fuss which has been kicked up, to make up your own mind, but be warned that the movie, besides being uncomfortably hilarious, is also quite disgusting (morally and visually).



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