Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan offended me. As a Christian I found myself in the uncomfortable position of seeing my belief system mocked when Borat wanders into a charismatic church towards the end of the film.
In no time he finds himself in front of a congregation with a microphone in his face claiming to want to know “Mr. Jesus”. It immediately deposited a sour taste in my mouth – suddenly Borat wasn’t so funny. It got worse as Sacha Baron Cohen – who plays Borat – then proceeded to pretend to speak in tongues by sticking his tongue out in an exaggerated manner and falling into the arms of the people around him.
It wasn’t a good feeling. As I pondered how to interpret the remaining minutes of the film I became detached. I didn’t want to watch anymore because it was no longer enjoyable. So, the film ended and I left conflicted about how to react.
A week has passed since I saw Borat. I’ve had time to reflect on the film and have this to say: Well done Sacha! You have crafted a piece of cinema that will most certainly offend almost everyone who goes to see it. There are no hard feelings on my part because so many people – across the board – are targets in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan that I really have no room to complain. It is so unbiased in its approach to the people that Borat interacts with that it offends equally throughout its running time and that for me is the beauty of this film.
Whether you’re gay, Jewish, Christian, Muslim or a woman the antics of Kazakhstan’s famous news reporter, Borat Sagdiyev, and his misogynist, anti-Semitic and racist approach to life will leave you feeling uncomfortable at times but highly entertained.
Borat is a road trip movie in which Borat and his producer Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian) are sent to the “US and A” in order to study and document the culture of America. Borat, however, becomes sidelined when he discovers the official Baywatch scrapbook at a garage sale. Paging through the book he discovers C.J. Parker (a.k.a. Pamela Anderson) and soon he and Azamat – the true meaning of their trip unknown to him – find themselves travelling from New York to the West coast of America to find her.
Of Cohen’s well-established personas (Ali G, Bruno and Borat) I find Borat to be the most interesting and entertaining to watch. Through Borat, Cohen cleverly crafts satire that often reveals the ignorant and prejudicial nature of many of the people he has placed in front of the camera. What may seem infantile and stupid is often designed and conceived with a great amount of intelligence behind it. Like a reflective mirror, we discover that it is not only Borat that is an ignorant bigot, but also ourselves.
Using and adapting the format of the Borat skits seen on Da Ali G Show – where a fictional Borat interviews people from the real world – Baron Cohen and the film’s script writers have built a fictional story around largely non-fiction interviews that integrate extremely well. Although, I must admit I would have liked to have seen more interview material and a little less fiction.
Baron Cohen is a comedic performer of great skill and he cements his status as such with this film. His timing is impeccable, knowing exactly when to interject when interviewing his guests and knowing exactly what to say in order to achieve the greatest comedic effect.
Physically he is hilarious to watch. The naked wrestling match between an over-weight Azamat and Borat is the highlight of the film and it has to be seen to be truly appreciated. What seems messy and random is in fact a finely choreographed piece of action cinema in which Azamat and Borat wreck their hotel room.
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan will offend – I would say – 90% of the people who go to see it. There will be those who won’t bat an eyelid but for those of you who do, remember that it’s not only you who is being affronted.
Sacha Baron Cohen has pushed not only the envelope of bad – but-so-enjoyable-to-watch – taste comedy, but also himself as a performer. He throws himself into situations that only the bravest of individuals would consider and his no holds barred approach to his performance make Borat’s first feature film outing incredibly enjoyable to watch, even if it does offend the pants off everyone.