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

Review by © Jane Freebury

There’s nothing to feel too uneasy about when Borat opens the show from ‘home’ in Kazakhstan. Even if the people of the Romanian hamlet of Glod where this movie was actually shot weren’t exactly in on the joke – news is they are suing – they were clearly happy to be on TV.

Everyone everywhere wanting three minutes of fame might think twice about it now. Especially if it is offered by a beanpole in a bad suit and 70s moustache, British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, best known here as Ali G.

In Glod it’s all in English and he seemed reasonably safe. But when he took to the road in the US on his odyssey of discovery from New York to California, I became a tad concerned. Yet what impressed me most was the politeness overall of many ordinary Americans, even when insulted and confronted. Two hirsute men in an elevator is one of many classic scenes.

There must be another movie in it. All those scenes that didn’t make it to the screen in this breathtakingly offensive and sometimes very funny mockumentary would reveal how Borat was dealt with by NYPD when he dropped his daks in the shrubbery in front of Trump Tower or chased terrified New Yorkers down the street for a kiss, or how he was howled off the rodeo arena in Salem after singing a bogus national anthem.

How did Baron Cohen get away with it? He could have been shot at or lynched. His hapless victims are now responding in the media and in the courts.

This is a road movie like no other, undertaken in an ice cream van because Borat’s manager Azamat (American comedian Ken Davitian) is worried about flying. It has the usual elements – innocents abroad on a journey through heartland country that reveals truths about society – and the main character himself is the boor, the racist, the anti-semite and misogynist.

Borat brazenly crashes through. Poking fun at people is tightly policed in today’s culture of political correctness and perhaps Baron Cohen has gone too far, but he shows up the ignorance that underlies racism, and anti-semitism in particular. And bigotry isn’t sacrosant.

3.5 stars