Borat Sagdiyev

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In 2007, a book from Baron Cohen was released, titled "Touristic Guidings to Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan/Touristic Guidings to Minor Nation of U.S. and A.", with humour about both countries in a similar vein to the movie.[1]


Sacha Baron Cohen has stated that the character of Borat, alongside his Ali G character, will be retired.[2] Borat's last appearances were at Night of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Event for Autism Education 2006 television special and an online public service announcement ahead of the 2008 United States elections.[3]

Criticism and controversy[edit]

Denigration of Roma[edit]

Borat's movie has been accused of promoting antiziganism. Like Baron Cohen's satirical antisemitism, however, when viewed in context, the character's intolerance and bigotry towards Roma (whom he refers to as "Gypsies") actually provide what is likely the most visible stance against antiziganism in popular culture today[original research?]. The film has been criticized for several scenes portraying Borat's fictional Kazakhstani village which were actually filmed in the impoverished Roma village of Glod in Romania. USA Today reports that poverty-stricken villagers were offered between $3.30 and $5.50 to bring animals into their houses and other gag scenes for the movie that some described as humiliating.[4] The studio contends that participants were paid double the rate recommended by the Romanian film office for extras. Additionally, Baron Cohen personally donated $5,000 to the village, as well as computers and school supplies.[5]

Two villagers of Glod hired controversial[6] reparation attorney Ed Fagan to sue the makers of the film for $30 million for human rights abuses. Fagan intended to submit lawsuits in New York and Florida state courts, as well as in Frankfurt, Germany. Fagan said that he hoped to "teach Hollywood a very expensive lesson." The lawsuit was thrown out by U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in a hearing in early December 2006 on the ground that the charges were too vague to stand up in court.[5] Fagan planned to refile, but has since been disbarred.[6]

Denigration of Jews[edit]

The Borat character has been accused of anti-Semitism but Baron Cohen, himself an Orthodox Jew, has explained that the segments are a "dramatic demonstration of how racism feeds on dumb conformity, as much as rabid bigotry."[7] "Borat essentially works a tool. By himself pretending to be anti-Semitic, he lets people lower their guard and expose their own prejudice," Baron Cohen explained to Rolling Stone.[8] Baron Cohen, the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, says he wishes in particular to expose the role of indifference:

When I was in university, there was this major historian of the Third Reich, Ian Kershaw, who said, 'The path to Auschwitz was paved with indifference.' I know it's not very funny being a comedian talking about the Holocaust, but it's an interesting idea that not everyone in Germany had to be a raving anti-Semite. They just had to be apathetic.[8]

(The actual line from Kershaw’s 1983 book Popular Opinion and Political Dissent in the Third Reich was that "the road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved with indifference"[9][10][11])

However, the Anti-Defamation League, a U.S.-based group that “...combat[s] anti-Semitism and bigotry of all kinds”, complained to HBO after Borat performed his country western-style song "In My Country There Is Problem". It called on people to "throw the Jew down the well", warning that "you must be careful of his teeth" and that "you must grab him by his money", and was welcomed with applause and participation from some members of an audience in Tucson, Arizona. The full chorus goes: "Throw the Jew down the well/So my country can be free/You must grab him by his horns/Then we have a big party."[12][13] Regarding the enthusiastic response to "In My Country There Is Problem", he says, "Did it reveal that they were anti-Semitic? Perhaps. But maybe it just revealed that they were indifferent to anti-Semitism."

In another scene, Borat visits the Serengeti Range ranch in Texas, where the owner of the ranch confides that he believes the Holocaust was a necessity for Germany. He further implies that he would have no problem running a ranch where people can hunt, in Borat's words, "deer... then Jew."

An interview with James Broadwater, an evangelical Christian and Republican candidate for the United States' Congress from Mississippi, caused Broadwater to receive some hate emails after an episode of Da Ali G Show aired in which Broadwater stated that all non-Christians (including Jews) will go to Hell. He was told that the interview would be played in foreign countries to teach others about the American political system. Broadwater later posted a letter on his website denouncing Da Ali G Show, explaining that his statement referred to a theological belief that anyone that "accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour will spend eternity in Heaven, while everyone who rejects Him will spend eternity in Hell." Broadwater did not apologise for his comments. Instead, he insisted that "the liberalism, anti-God media needs to be brought under the strict control of the FCC, and that as soon as possible."[14]

In the film, Borat continues his anti-Semitic stance. When he mentions his decision to avoid flying while in America, Borat says that his colleague "insists we not fly in case the Jews repeat their attack of 9/11". Later, he finds himself in a bed and breakfast run by a kindly old Jewish couple. He tries to "escape", and throws money at two cockroaches that have crawled into his room, apparently fearing that the Jewish owners have shapeshifted into the cockroaches. He was amazed that they had managed to look human and states that one "can hardly see their horns". Borat is completely oblivious to his hosts' religious beliefs when he first meets them, despite the immediate evidence: the man wears a kippah and the woman openly displays her paintings of Jewish people all over the house. Borat does not understand until the woman explicitly tells him "I'm Jewish."

Cohen later joked, upon receiving a British comedy award, that Borat was a guest of honour at the International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust in Tehran.[citation needed]

The movie has enjoyed particular success in Israel because Israeli filmgoers understand what Borat is really saying when he is supposedly spouting Kazakh: throughout the film, Borat speaks fluent Hebrew.[15]

Iraq War sarcasm[edit]

In January 2005, after convincing the authorities that he was shooting a documentary, Cohen managed to infuriate a crowd at a rodeo in Salem, Virginia. Even though the crowd first cheered at the beginning of his statements of support for the Iraq war:[16]

"My name a Borat. I come from Kazakhstan. Can I say first, we support your War of Terror! May we show our support to our boys in Iraq! May U.S. and A. kill every single terrorist! May George Bush drink the blood of every single man, woman and child of Iraq! May you destroy their country so that for the next thousand years not even a single lizard will survive in their desert!"

He then went on to sing an off-key rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner with the lyrics replaced by those of a fictitious "Kazakh national anthem", beginning with "Kazakhstan is the greatest country in the world/All other countries are run by little girls..."

"If he had been out there a minute longer, I think somebody would have shot him," said one witness. "People were booing him, flipping him off." For his own safety, Cohen was escorted from the venue. (Much of the event appears in the movie.[17] A credible news report about the incident, aired on a local television station, is included in the DVD extras.)


  1. ^ Wolk, Josh (November 2, 2007). "Borat: Touristic Guidings to Minor Nation of U.S. and A. and...Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2007)". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 29, 2011. 
  2. ^ Yahoo Movies: Sacha Baron Cohen to shed Borat persona for good Yahoo, 21 December 2007
  3. ^ YouTube - Don't Vote (Starring Will Smith, Snoop Dogg, Borat & More)
  4. ^ "Now Romanians say 'Borat' misled them". USA Today (Gannett Co, Inc.). 2006-11-15. Retrieved 2006-12-22. 
  5. ^ a b "NYC Judge Questions Viability Of Villagers' 'Borat' Lawsuit"
  6. ^ a b Fuchs, Mary (June 24, 2009). "Lawyer Edward Fagan is disbarred in N.J. for misusing Holocaust victims' funds". New Jersey Real-Time News. Retrieved on October 14, 2009.
  7. ^ ""Borat" satire turns to farce at Toronto festival". Reuters Movie News. Reuters Limited. 2006-09-08. Retrieved 2006-12-22. 
  8. ^ a b Strauss, Neil (2006-11-14). "The Man Behind The Mustache". Rolling Stone (Rolling Stone). Archived from the original on 2006-12-19. Retrieved 2006-12-22. 
  9. ^ Evans, Kershaw Popular Opinion and Political Dissent in the Third Reich: Bavaria 1933-1945, Oxford University Press, 2002, page 277
  10. ^ Evans, Richard In Hitler's Shadow, New York, NY: Pantheon, 1989 page 71
  11. ^ Marrus, Michael The Holocaust in History, Toronto: KeyPorter, 2000 page 91.
  12. ^ Letter to Sacha Baron Cohen ("Ali G")
  13. ^ Statement On The Comedy Of Sacha Baron Cohen, A.K.A. "Borat"
  14. ^ The Unofficial Borat Homepage | Behind the Scenes: James Broadwater
  15. ^ "Secret of Borat's fluent Kazakh - it's Hebrew". The Guardian (London). 2006-12-20. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  16. ^ - Borat: canisayfirst.mp3
  17. ^ "Rodeo in Salem gets unexpected song rendition", The Roanoke Times, 9 January 2005.

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