Borat: Cultural Learnings of America
for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Director: Larry Charles
Easily the most controversial and discussed film of 2006, Borat (gleefully played by Sacha Baron Cohen) burst onto the American scene after appearing in sketches on Da Ali G Show in Britain with this big screen tale about the overzealous, unapologetically prejudiced and absurdly friendly TV reporter from Kazakhstan. At the beginning of the film, we see Borat Sagdiev in his natural setting just before he journeys to America, which helps establish the film’s fish-out-of-water paradigm or, as director Harold Ramis mentioned on TV’s Ebert and Roeper, the idea of Borat as one of the more recent incarnations of mythic characters on a Gulliver’s Travels styled hero’s journey. Borat, who ventures to the states in order to report on our cultural differences to (as the title notes) “make benefit” for his homeland arrives with his loyal sidekick Azamat Bogativ (a hilariously understated Ken Davitian) in tow. The two men bicker and make up like an old married couple as they encounter a wide variety of Americans from a driving instructor to a hooker, feminists, hotel clerks, and rodeo cowboys before Borat’s educational journey takes a detour of the heart after an accidental TV channel change causes a romantic obsession with Baywatch television star Pamela Anderson, whom Borat decides he will wed. Admittedly, the hilarious film was a bit over praised before and after its theatrical release (setting up viewers for a slight let-down due to the exhaustive media coverage) but there are certain scenes that you’ll find yourself wanting to rewind again and again because you may have laughed over one or more of the jokes. The film is funnier on repeat viewings as Borat’s antics will cause you to squirm on the initial screening when you realize that it’s a mockumentary wherein most of the people involved were not in on the joke and multiple lawsuits did ensue (thereby some of the anti-humanitarian, offensive and prejudiced sentiments of a few of the “average” Americans depicted will justly tick some off) and the police were called on Cohen over ninety times during the film’s production. The film earned numerous critical awards and nominations including a Golden Globe for the Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical or Comedy for Cohen in 2006 and the award for Best Comedy Movie by the Broadcast Film Critics Association.