Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm deals in offensive humor and moments of genuine patience


Amazon Studios / TNS

Maria Bakalova and Sacha Baron Cohen in the movie “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.”

Chris Bird, Managing Editor

This movie was, in turn, offensive, eye-opening, and even touching.

When the first Borat film came out, I was much younger, and if I’m being honest, I didn’t get it at all. I think that I, and loads of others at the time, saw the film as slightly funny just seeing Sacha Baron Cohen make a fool of himself and provoking some extreme or odd reactions from everyone he interacted with. While it was a bit funny, it was also pretty hard to get on board with the concept for me because Cohen’s character, Borat, is largely an offensive caricature of Eastern Europe, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian cultures, and the movie does very little to put the antics, that really form the core of the experience, into perspective.

Before I watched this sequel movie, I went back and watched the first, and 14 years later, I feel like I found a deeper value to a movie and film style that doesn’t seem to have many redeeming qualities at first glance. The way that I started to look at these movies was not like I was watching any normal narrative story, or a comedy movie even, but I started to focus on each interaction between the “characters” in the movie, and the real people that they end up encountering who don’t necessarily understand that they are dealing with an actor and not a real person.

I can’t say that what Cohen does as Borat isn’t offensive or that it doesn’t go too far in parts, but the human reactions that he prompts through his character are absolutely fascinating and can challenge our ideas of the beliefs and behaviors of people across America. The inclusion of Borat’s daughter, Tutar, I think, also brings these interactions even further, and the moments acted out between Cohen and actress Maria Bakalova are really the best parts of the fictional plot throughout the film.

A good deal of the situations in this movie seem to be designed to ellicit a response from people that many would assume would react explosively to a character like Borat messing with them. Borat is a man from Kazakhstan; he is misogynistic, anti-Semitic, and is just generally rude. Tutar is played up as essentially a human trafficking victim with a bad gauge of what is right and wrong and holds very little self-respect for herself. These characters certainly bring out the worst in some people he interacts with, but I was honestly really surprised with some of the moments of smaller kindnesses towards these hard to digest characters.

The most memorable moments of the film came in small gestures. A group of Qanon conspiracy theorists taking Borat in because he said he didn’t have a place to stay was wild, but even though they didn’t exactly agree with Borat and held some very fringe and unfounded beliefs, they had some true tolerance and kindness for a man that was actively trying to be hard to deal with. Of course, later, they and other far right-wing protestors are duped by Cohen into saying some very offensive things, but it is reassuring to see that kindness and humanity isn’t lost even in people who might seem to be aggressive and often misguided.

The opposite is also shown in the film, with small moments like a cake decorator agreeing to write an incredibly offensive statement on a cake for Cohen without batting an eye. Casual hate and racism are definitely still alive in America, and this film exposes many instances of it.

Despite all the division and hate that can be seen in the film, there are also some bigger moments that promote some genuine understanding and growth, both for the characters and the people around them or watching the film. A babysitter named Jeanise Jones shows a great deal of respect to Tutar and Borat while also having the courage to actively challenge things that she feels are bad for Tutar, and also bad for Borat’s relationship with his daughter. Another encounter involves Borat interacting with Holocaust survivor Judith Dim Evans and her friend and includes some very straight talk from the two ladies addressing anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Both of these moments of people facing an extreme and offensive situation and turning around and trying to help Borat and Tutar with patience were some genuinely moving moments.

This film is not beautiful, but it has moments of beauty in it through the actions of some real people. There is also ugliness and facts about how we perceive each other that this film forces viewers to face. I won’t say that this is an amazing movie in the sense that any widely loved classic is, but I think that if you approach this more like a collection of human interactions and glimpses into the lives and opinions of people in America, then you might find some value in this film.