After retiring the character for 14 years, Sacha Baron Cohen returns as, what is arguably his most infamous persona ever, Kazakh reporter Borat Sagdiyev. Released as an Amazon Prime original, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” or more simply known as “Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm,” is a sequel to 2006’s “Borat” movie with an equally long-winded title (“Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan”). Aside from titles with similar word counts, both films utilize the same filmmaking techniques and humor to create unique, social and satirical mockumentaries which surprise audiences even over a decade later.
“Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm” reunites the audience with Borat as he attempts to deliver his daughter as a gift to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, with the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 presidential election as a background.
In its attempts at social commentary and criticism, it is hard at times to distinguish the film’s true intentions. There are times where the line that separates satire from pure crassness is often blurred and this self-proclaimed comedy can be admittedly difficult to laugh at sometimes. As an audience member, you find yourself wondering if you should even be watching, let alone laughing at what is on screen. Though not all of its laughs stem from vulgarity, a majority — and certainly the film’s most memorable moments — do. Its use of extreme shock humor and complete disregard for political-correctness make it uncomfortable, but never so much so that you consider turning it off.
Although “Borat: Subsequent Movefilm” doesn’t reach the same peaks its predecessor does, it still carries its own. With the first “Borat” being banned in several countries, its sequel has not yet reached the same level of infamy. In fact, the pranks and tricks in “Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm” are considerably more tame than the first “Borat.” This time around, it seems like the film has shifted its focus away from the grandeur and shock factor to more closely focus on the specific point it is trying to make. With a strong emphasis on feminism, especially in the second half, the film teters between cleverly crafting its message, embedding it within the script, and ham-fistedly spewing a moral at the viewer through blunt dialogue. At rare points, the script even goes for heartwarming, though never truly taking itself too seriously, fitting in perfectly with the film’s offbeat tone.
What seems to draw the most attention to the movie, aside from the stunts Cohen is willing to pull, are how exactly he’s able to pull them and if they’re even genuine. With a mix of both authentic reactions from unknowing people and actual paid actors, most of the scenes fall somewhere in between authentic and scripted. Most of the people believed they were being filmed for a documentary, resulting in these seemingly genuine reaction scenes which are the film’s biggest draw for audiences. In fact, Jeanise Jones, who appears in the film as the unsuspecting babysitter, has recently spoken up about her experience. According to the New York Post, Jones stated she felt “betrayed” by the filmmakers since she was under the impression she was in a true documentary. However, in a recent Variety interview she backtracks on this statement, saying she “never felt betrayed” and just “didn’t know it was a movie.” A Gofundme was created for Jones by her church, due to her unemployment during the pandemic. After gaining social media traction, Cohen donated $100,000 himself as well, which will be allocated towards Jeanise’s community and their needs. As of late, the Gofundme has raised over $132,000, including Cohen’s contribution.
While some of the movie’s most shocking scenes appear as if they had to be completely staged, a little research proves otherwise. Though the context of a scene might be slightly misleading, people’s reactions are anything but fake. Such is the case with the sequence at the debutante ball, where Borat and his daughter perform, what they call, the “fertility dance.” While audiences might assume they were able to crash an already present ball, it was actually booked by the production crew themselves. All the people there, however, were under the impression that they were filming a fictional scene for a movie where they would just be dancing and were quizzed beforehand to see if they would recognize Cohen or his characters. What follows is a crowd of people oblivious to the absurd scene they’re about to witness. It’s clear that the film’s draw continues even after it finishes, as people desperately try to figure out what was real, what wasn’t and how it was possible.
Something that this film showcases without ever acknowledging is the lengths people will go to just to be polite. Whether it be an especially American trait or just a human one, it’s rare to ever see anyone treat this seemingly naive foreigner uncivilly despite Borat putting them in highly uncomfortable situations. It almost forces the audience to reevaluate what they themselves would do if the situation were to happen to them.
Ultimately, “Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm” isn’t for everybody. Unapologetically partisan and extremely divisive, this “Borat” sequel finds its audience in those who align with its beliefs, or those who are oblivious to the irony, oftentimes being the ones whose expense it’s at.
Hilary Gil is an Entertainment Intern for the fall 2020 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.