Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Larry Charles|
|Based on||Borat Sagdiyev|
by Sacha Baron Cohen
|Starring||Sacha Baron Cohen|
|Music by||Erran Baron Cohen|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$262 million|
Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Kazakh: Борат! Қазақстанның ұлы халқының игілігі үшін Америка мәдениетін оқыту) (or simply Borat) (stylized as BORДT!) is a 2006 British-American mockumentary comedy film written and produced by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen who also plays the title character, Borat Sagdiyev, a fictitious Kazakh journalist travelling through the United States recording real-life interactions with Americans. The film was directed by Larry Charles and distributed by 20th Century Fox. Much of the film features unscripted vignettes of Borat interviewing and interacting with Americans, who believe he is a foreigner with little or no understanding of American customs. It is the second of three films built around Baron Cohen's characters from Da Ali G Show (2000–04): the first, Ali G Indahouse, was released in 2002, and featured a cameo by Borat, and the third, Brüno, was released in 2009. The film is produced by Baron Cohen's production company, Four By Two Productions ("Four By Two" is Cockney rhyming slang for "Jew").
The film was well received, both critically and commercially; it earned $262 million worldwide. Baron Cohen won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, as Borat, while the film was nominated for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy in the same category. Borat was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 79th Academy Awards.
Controversy surrounded the film from two years prior to its release, and after the film's release, some cast members spoke against, and even sued, its creators. It was banned in all Arab countries except Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates (which released the film heavily censored), and the Russian government discouraged Russian cinemas from showing it. It was released on DVD 5 March 2007 (a day later in Region 1 countries).
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Release
- 5 Reception
- 6 Controversies
- 7 Soundtrack
- 8 Home media
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
At the behest of the Kazakh Ministry of Information, reporter Borat Sagdiyev leaves Kazakhstan for the United States, which he called "Greatest Country in the World", the "U, S and A", to make a documentary. He leaves behind his wife Oksana and other inhabitants of his village including his prostitute and implied lover sister Natalia and his annoying neighbour Nursultan Tulyakbay. His companions are his producer Azamat Bagatov and a pet hen.
In New York, Borat sees an episode of Baywatch on TV and immediately falls in love with Pamela Anderson's character, C. J. Parker. While interviewing and mocking a panel of feminists, he learns of the actress's name and her residence in California. Borat is then informed by telegram that Oksana has been killed by a bear. Delighted, he resolves to travel to California and make Pam Anderson his new wife. Azamat is afraid of flying because of the September 11, 2001, attacks, which he believes were the work of Jews. Borat takes driving lessons and buys a dilapidated ice-cream truck for the journey.
During the trip, Borat acquires a Baywatch booklet and continues gathering footage for his documentary. He meets gay pride parade participants, politicians Alan Keyes and Bob Barr, and African American youths. When Borat tells Keyes about the friends he made at gay pride, Keyes reveals that they are homosexual, shocking Borat and filling him with regret. Borat is also interviewed at a live local television station and proceeds to disrupt the weather report. Visiting a rodeo, Borat excites the crowd with jingoistic remarks, but then sings a fictional Kazakhstani national anthem to the tune of "The Star-Spangled Banner", receiving a strong negative reaction.
Staying at a bed-and-breakfast, Borat and Azamat are stunned to learn that their hosts are Jewish. Fearful at the hands of their hosts, the two escape after throwing money at two woodlice, believing that they are their Jewish hosts transformed. After their escape Borat insists they press on to California despite Azamat's objections as he wants to return to New York as he believes there are no Jews there. To appease Azamat, Borat attempts to buy a handgun to defend himself, but is turned away because he is not an American citizen, so he buys a bear instead.
An etiquette coach suggests Borat attend a private dinner at an eating club in the South. During the dinner, he unintentionally offends the other guests by showing them naked photos of him and his son and mistaking a retired man as retarded. When he lets Luenell, an African-American prostitute, into the house and shows her to the table, they both are kicked out. Borat befriends Luenell, and she invites him into a relationship with her, but he tells her that he is in love with someone else. Borat then visits an antique shop where he clumsily breaks various Confederate heritage items, almost bankrupting the documentary.
At a hotel, Borat, just out of the bath, sees Azamat masturbating over a picture of Pamela Anderson. A furious Borat accidentally reveals that she is the reason why they're travelling across the entire country instead of staying in New York. Azamat becomes livid at Borat's deception, and the situation escalates into a nude brawl which spills out into the hallway, a crowded elevator, and then into a packed convention ballroom.
Azamat abandons Borat, taking his passport, all of their money, and their bear (whose head is later seen inside Azamat's motel refrigerator). Borat's truck runs out of gas, and he begins to hitchhike to California. He is soon picked up by drunken fraternity brothers from the University of South Carolina. On learning the reason for his trip, they show him the Pam and Tommy sex tape which reveals that she is not a virgin, as he had previously suspected. Despondent, Borat burns the Baywatch booklet and, by mistake, his return ticket to Kazakhstan.
Borat attends a United Pentecostal camp meeting, at which Republican U.S. Representative Chip Pickering and Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Smith, Jr. are present. He regains his faith, and forgives Azamat and Pamela. He accompanies church members on a bus to Los Angeles and disembarks to find Azamat dressed as Oliver Hardy (though Borat thinks that he is dressed as Adolf Hitler). The two reconcile in Azamat's hotel where he tells Borat where to find Pamela Anderson. Borat finally comes face-to-face with Anderson at a book signing at a Virgin Megastore. After showing Anderson his "traditional marriage sack", Borat pursues her throughout the store in an attempt to abduct her until security guards intervene.
Borat visits Luenell and they return to Kazakhstan together, bringing back American customs and technology. This includes the apparent conversion of the people to Christianity (the Kazakh version of which includes crucifixion and torturing of Jews) and the introduction of computer-based technology, such as iPods, laptop computers and a high-definition LCD television.
Over the credits, the fictional Kazakhstan national anthem which Borat sang at the rodeo is played accompanied by images of Soviet-style industry.
- Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat Sagdiyev, a fictional Kazakh journalist, distinguished by exaggeratedly strong antisemitism, sexism, and antiziganism, which is depicted as apparently the norm in his homeland. Borat was originally created as a character for Da Ali G Show and appeared in every episode of the show, along with a cameo in the film spin-off.
- Ken Davitian as Azamat Bagatov, the producer of Borat's documentary. Azamat was a new character created for the film.
- Luenell as Luenell the prostitute; first seen when Borat calls her to come to the Southern dinner. She later returns with Borat to Kazakhstan and the two would wed.
- Pamela Anderson as herself; she plays a central role in the film as the reason for the journalist's cross country journey. She also appears in person at the end of the film, in a botched abduction attempt by Borat for cultural "marriage".
- When Borat seeks advice from an etiquette coach, he goes on to show nude photos of his allegedly teenaged son. These photos actually show gay porn star Stonie, who was chosen because producers were seeking "someone who would look 13 or 14 but was actually of legal age and would do frontal nudity".
- Politicians Alan Keyes and Bob Barr appear in the film as two of Borat's interviewees.
Except for Borat, Azamat, Luenell, and Pamela Anderson, none of the characters are portrayed by actors. Most scenes in the film were unscripted, although the end credits do credit a "Naked Fight Coordinator". In most cases, the film's participants were given no warning on what they would be taking part in except for being asked to sign release forms agreeing not to take legal action against the film's producers.
Principal photography was already underway in January 2005, when Baron Cohen caused a near riot in what would ultimately be the rodeo scene in the final cut of the film. An interview with Baron Cohen by Rolling Stone indicated that more than 400 hours of footage had been shot for the film.
The "Kazakhstan" depicted in the film has little or no relationship with the actual country, and the producers explicitly deny attempting to "convey the actual beliefs, practices or behaviour of anyone associated with Kazakhstan" in the "all persons fictitious" disclaimer. The scenes showing Borat's home village were filmed in the village of Glod, Romania. The name of Borat's neighbour, Nursultan Tuyakbay, is a cross between the names of former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and opposition politician Zharmakhan Tuyakbay.
No Kazakh language is heard in the film. Borat's neighbours in Kazakhstan were portrayed by Romani people, who were unaware of the film's subject. Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) commonly speaks Hebrew (due to his mother being Israeli and being fluent in the language) throughout the movie and not the Kazakh language. The Cyrillic alphabet used in the film is the Russian form, not the Kazakh one, although most of the words written in it (especially the geographical names) are either misspelled or make no sense at all. The English words are typed on an English keyboard with a Russian language setting. The lettering on the aircraft in the beginning of the film is merely the result of Roman characters on a reversed image, while promotional materials spell "BORДT" with a Cyrillic letter for D substituted for the "A" in Faux Cyrillic style typically used to give a "Russian" appearance. Sacha Baron Cohen speaks Hebrew in the film, while Ken Davitian speaks Armenian. They also use several common phrases from Slavic languages: Borat's trademark expressions "jagshemash" (jak się masz) and "chenquieh" (dziękuję) echo the Polish for "How are you?" and "thank you", respectively. While presenting his house, Borat says "tishe" to his house cow; "тише" is Russian (similar words exist in other Slavic languages) for "quiet(er)" or "be quiet".
The DVD included several deleted scenes from the film, including Borat being questioned by police at a traffic stop, visiting an animal shelter to get a bear to protect him from Jews, getting a massage at a hotel, and visiting an American doctor. There is also a montage of scenes cut from the film, including Borat taking a job at Krystal and taking part in an American Civil War reenactment. The deleted scenes menu also includes an intentionally tedious supermarket sequence with an unusually patient supermarket owner (Borat repeatedly asks about each product in the cheese section of the store and the owner responds the same way: "That's cheese"), an actual local TV news report about Borat's rodeo singing, and a final "happy ending" scene about Borat appearing in a Kazakh show entitled "Sexydrownwatch", a Baywatch clone that also starred Azamat, Luenell and Alexandra Paul. A scene in which Borat "started pretending he was being arrested" was also filmed, but was removed under the threat of legal action by prison officials when they learned that the "documentary" was a satire. In an interview, one of the film's writers, Dan Mazer, confirmed that there was a scene filmed but cut in which Borat observed the shooting of actual pornography with actress Brooke Banner. Mazer stated that the scene was deleted so as not to compete with the naked hotel fight, but hinted it might be included in future DVD releases. In a 2016 interview on Conan, Cohen elaborated on the deleted scene in which he was featured in the pornographic film.
Borat was previewed at the 2006 Comic-Con International in San Diego, California, on 21 July 2006. Its first screening to a paying audience was during the 2006 Traverse City Film Festival, where it won the Excellence in Filmmaking Award.
The film's official debut was in Toronto on 7 September 2006, at the Ryerson University Theatre during the Toronto International Film Festival. Baron Cohen arrived in character as Borat in a cart pulled by women dressed as peasants. Twenty minutes into the showing, however, the projector broke. Baron Cohen performed an impromptu act to keep the audience amused, but ultimately all attempts to fix the equipment failed. The film was successfully screened the following night, with Dustin Hoffman in attendance.
In Israel, a proposed poster depicting Borat in a sling bikini was rejected by the film's advertising firm in favour of one showing him in his usual suit. The film helped popularize the term "mankini".
Scaled-back U.S. release
The film opened at No. 1 in the box office, maintaining first place for two weeks straight. The film earned more in the second week ($28,269,900) than in the first ($26,455,463), due to an expansion onto 2,566 screens.
Borat had its public release on 1 November 2006 in Belgium. By 3 November 2006, it had opened in the United States and Canada, as well as in 14 European countries. Upon its release, it was a massive hit, taking in US$26.4 million in its opening weekend, the highest ever in the United States and Canada for a film released in fewer than 1,000 cinemas until Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert in 2008. However, its opening day (approximately $9.2 million) was larger than that of the Hannah Montana concert (approximately $8.6 million), leaving Borat with the record of the highest opening day gross for a film released in fewer than 1,000 cinemas. On its second weekend, Borat surpassed its opening with a total of US$29 million.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a rating of 91%, based on 218 reviews, with an average rating of 8/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Part satire, part shockumentary, Borat gets high-fives almost all-around for being offensive in the funniest possible way. Jagshemash!". On Metacritic, the film has a score of 89 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
In an article about the changing face of comedy, The Atlantic Monthly said that it "may be the funniest film in a decade". Michael Medved gave it 3.5 out of 4 stars, calling it "...simultaneously hilarious and cringe-inducing, full of ingenious bits that you'll want to describe to your friends and then laugh all over again when you do."
One negative review came from American critic Joe Queenan, who went as far as to call Baron Cohen an "odious twit". In an article for Slate, writer Christopher Hitchens offered a counter-argument to suggestions of anti-Americanism in the film. Hitchens suggested instead that the film demonstrated amazing tolerance by the film's unknowing subjects, especially citing the reactions of the guests in the Southern dinner scene to Borat's behaviour.
By posting scenes from the film on YouTube, Borat was also exposed by viral communication. This triggered discussions on different national identities (Kazakh, American, Polish, Romanian, Jewish, British) that Baron Cohen had exploited in creating the Borat character.
American audiences embraced the film, which played to sold-out crowds at many showings on its opening, despite having been shown on only 837 screens. Borat debuted at No. 1 on its opening weekend, with a total gross of $26.4 million, beating its competitors Flushed Away and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause. The film's opening weekend's cinema average was an estimated $31,511, topping Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, yet behind Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and Spider-Man. It retained the top spot in its second weekend after expanding to 2,566 theatres, extending the box office total to $67.8 million.
In the United Kingdom, Borat opened at No. 1, with an opening weekend gross of £6,242,344 ($11,935,986), the 43rd best opening week earnings in the UK as of March 2007. Since its release, Borat has grossed over $260 million worldwide.
Awards and nominations
Borat received a nomination at the 79th Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, although the award ultimately went to The Departed. It was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award under the category of Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, but lost to Dreamgirls. The Broadcast Film Critics Association named it the Best Comedy Movie of 2006, and was nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Baron Cohen won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. He received equivalent awards from the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, the Utah Film Critics Association, the Toronto Film Critics Association, and the Online Film Critics Society. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association tied Baron Cohen with Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland for their title of Best Actor. Baron Cohen was also nominated for Best Actor by the London Film Critics' Circle.
Borat has been featured in multiple top 10 lists of films in 2006
- 1st – Desson Thomson, The Washington Post
- 1st – Ty Burr, The Boston Globe
- 1st – Marc Mohan, Portland Oregonian
- 2nd – Richard Corliss, Time
- 2nd – J. Hoberman, The Village Voice
- 2nd – Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
- 3rd – Mike Russell, Portland Oregonian
- 4th – Lou Lumenick, New York Post
- 4th – Dennis Harvey, Variety
- 5th – Jack Matthews, New York Daily News
- 6th – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
- 6th – Michael Rechtshaffen, The Hollywood Reporter
- 6th – Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald
- 7th – Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun
- 7th – Stephen Hunter, The Washington Post
- 7th – Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
- 7th – David Ansen, Newsweek
- 8th – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
- 8th – Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter
- 8th – Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle
- 9th – Wesley Morris, The Boston Globe
- 10th – Claudia Puig, USA Today
- 10th – Ella Taylor, L.A. Weekly
- 10th – Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
- Top 10 (listed alphabetically) – Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor
- Top 10 (listed alphabetically) – Liam Lacey & Rick Groen, The Globe & Mail
Retirement of Borat character
A third film by Baron Cohen was released in 2009, and was based on another of his characters: Brüno, a gay Austrian fashion reporter. Universal Studios is reported to have produced the film with a budget of $42 million.
Rupert Murdoch announced in early February 2007 that Baron Cohen had signed on to do another Borat film with Fox. However, this was contradicted by an interview with Baron Cohen himself in which Baron Cohen stated that Borat was to be discontinued, as he was now too well known to avoid detection as he did in the film and on Da Ali G Show. A spokesman for Fox later stated that it was too early to begin planning such a film, although they were open to the idea.
Baron Cohen subsequently announced that he was "killing off" the characters of Borat and Ali G because they were now so famous he could no longer trick people. Even though he decided to retire his trademark characters, on 26 February 2014, he brought them back for the FXX series Ali G: Rezurection, a collection of the sketches from all 18 episodes of Da Ali G Show, including new footage of Baron Cohen in-character as Ali G, who is portrayed as the presenter of the show.
After the film's release, Dharma Arthur, a news producer for WAPT in Jackson, Mississippi, wrote a letter to Newsweek saying that Borat's appearance on the station had led to her losing her job: "Because of him, my boss lost faith in my abilities and second-guessed everything I did thereafter … How upsetting that a man who leaves so much harm in his path is lauded as a comedic genius." Although Arthur has said she was fired from the show, she told the Associated Press that she resigned from the station. She said that she checked a public relations website that Borat's producers gave her before booking him.
In news coverage that aired in January 2005 of the filming of the rodeo scene, Bobby Rowe, producer of the Salem, Virginia rodeo depicted in the film, provided background on how he had become the victim of a hoax. He said that "months" prior to the appearance, he had been approached by someone from "One America, a California-based film company that was reportedly doing a documentary on a Russian immigrant"; he agreed to permit the "immigrant" to sing the U.S. national anthem after listening to a tape. After the film's release, Rowe said "Some people come up and say, 'Hey, you made the big time'; I've made the big time, but not in the way I want it." Cindy Streit, Borat's etiquette consultant, subsequently hired high-profile attorney Gloria Allred, who demanded that the California Attorney General investigate fraud allegedly committed by Baron Cohen and the film's producers.
The Salon Arts & Entertainment site quotes the Behars (a Jewish couple at whose guest house Borat and Azamat stay) as calling the film "outstanding", referring to Baron Cohen as "very lovely and very polite" and a "genius". The Boston Globe also interviewed the couple, saying they considered the film more anti-Muslim than anti-Semitic and had feared that Baron Cohen and his ensemble might be filming pornography in the house.
The feminists from Veteran Feminists of America (VFA) felt that they had been duped, having "sensed something odd was going on" before and during the interview with Borat. The Guardian later reported at least one of the women felt that the film was worth going to see at the cinema.
The New York Post had reported in November 2006 that Pamela Anderson filed for divorce from her husband Kid Rock after he reacted unfavourably to the film during a screening. The Post's article specifically claimed he had said of her role in the film, "You're nothing but a whore! You're a slut! How could you do that movie?" In an interview on The Howard Stern Show, Anderson confirmed that Rock was upset by her appearance in the film, but did not confirm that this was the cause of the separation.
Legal action by participants
The villagers of Glod, Romania, took legal action against the producers of Borat, complaining that they were lied to about the nature of the filming and they were portrayed as incestuous and ignorant. Some said they were paid only three lei (about US$1.28 in 2004) each, while others stated they were paid between $70 and $100 each, which did not cover their expenses. They are asking for $38 million in damages. One lawsuit was thrown out by U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in a hearing in early December 2006 on the ground that the allegations in the complaint were too vague. The litigants said they planned to refile.
Two of the University of South Carolina fraternity brothers who appeared in the film, Justin Seay and Christopher Rotunda, sued the producers, claiming defamation. The suit by Seay and Rotunda was dismissed in February 2007. The students had also sought an injunction to prevent the DVD release of the film, which was denied.
Another lawsuit was filed by a South Carolina resident who said he was accosted by Baron Cohen (as Borat) in the bathroom at a restaurant in downtown Columbia, with the actor allegedly making comments regarding the individual's genitals, without signing any legal waiver. The lawsuit also sought to have the footage excluded from any DVD releases and removed from Internet video sites.
The Macedonian Romani singer Esma Redžepova sued the film's producers, seeking €800,000 because the film used her song "Chaje Šukarije" without her permission. Afterwards, Redžepova won a €26,000 compensation, since it turned out that Baron Cohen had received permission from her production house to use the song, which she had not been notified about.
Felix Cedeno, a 31-year-old American, sued 20th Century Fox for $2.25 million, after he was filmed as part of a scene where a live chicken fell out of Borat's suitcase on the subway. Cedeno later dropped the suit, and received nothing.
Baltimore resident Michael Psenicska sought more than $100,000 in damages from Baron Cohen, 20th Century Fox, and other parties. Psenicska—a high school mathematics teacher who also owns a driving school—was reportedly paid $500 in cash to give Baron Cohen's bogus Kazakh journalist a driving lesson. In his action—filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan—the driving instructor said that he had been told the film was a "documentary about the integration of foreign people into the American way of life", and that if he had known the film's true nature, he would have never participated. Psenicska said he was entitled to damages because the defendants used images of him to advertise the film. The case was dismissed on 9 September 2008.
Jeffrey Lemerond, who was shown running and yelling, "Get away" as Borat attempted to hug strangers on a New York street, filed a legal case claiming his image was used in the film illegally, and that he suffered "public ridicule, degradation and humiliation" as a result. The case was dismissed.
Baron Cohen reacted to these suits by noting, "Some of the letters I get are quite unusual, like the one where the lawyer informed me I'm about to be sued for $100,000 and at the end says, 'P.S. Loved the movie. Can you sign a poster for my son Jeremy?'"
Reception in Kazakhstan
The government of Kazakhstan at first denounced Borat. In 2005, following Borat's appearance at the MTV Movie Awards, the country's Foreign Ministry threatened to sue Sacha Baron Cohen, and Borat's "Kazakh-based" website, www.borat.kz, was taken down. Kazakhstan also launched a multi-million dollar "Heart of Eurasia" campaign to counter the Borat effect; Baron Cohen replied by denouncing the campaign at an in-character press conference in front of the White House as the propaganda of the "evil nitwits" of Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is, throughout the film, referred to by Borat as his nation's second leading problem, with the first being the Jews. In November 2006, Kazakh TV personality Jantemir Baimukhamedov travelled to London with the stated aim of presenting Baron Cohen with horse meat and horse urine, which were claimed by Borat to be the national food and drink of Kazakhstan, although he was unable to organise a meeting with him.
In 2006, Gemini Films, the Central Asian distributor of 20th Century Fox, complied with a Kazakh government request to not release the film. That year, Kazakh ambassador Erlan Idrissov, after viewing the film, called parts of the film funny and wrote that the film had "placed Kazakhstan on the map". By 2012, Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov attributed a great rise in tourism to his country—with visas issued rising ten times—to the film, saying "I am grateful to 'Borat' for helping attract tourists to Kazakhstan."
According to Yerlan Askarbekov, a Kazakh public relations professional who worked with both the British Council and the Kazakh government who wrote a piece for the BBC website in 2016, ten years after the film's release, many of his colleagues in the Kazakh media saw the character of Borat as a valuable PR opportunity. According to him some of the Kazakhs who were most upset by the film were students studying in the US and the UK, who understood the film's satirical intent but felt that their non-Kazakh peers were taking the film at face value as an accurate portrayal of the country. He suggested that interest in the character inside the country faded once Kazakhs grasped that the film was designed to "...get an outsider's view of the US and reveal the prejudices of the Americans who Borat interacts with... functioning as a sort of 21st Century Alexis de Tocqueville".
The Kazakh tabloid Karavan declared Borat to be the best film of the year, having had a reviewer see the film at a screening in Vienna. The paper said that it was "...certainly not an anti-Kazakh, anti-Romanian or anti-Semitic" film, but rather "cruelly anti-American ... amazingly funny and sad at the same time." Another favorable word came from Kazakh novelist Sapabek Asip-uly, who suggested Baron Cohen be nominated for the annual award bestowed by the Kazakh Club of Art Patrons. In a letter published by the newspaper Vremya, Asip-uly wrote, "(Borat) has managed to spark an immense interest of the whole world in Kazakhstan—something our authorities could not do during the years of independence. If state officials completely lack a sense of humor, their country becomes a laughing stock." Amazon UK has also reported significant numbers of orders of Borat on DVD from Kazakhstan.
Accidental use of its parody national anthem
In March 2012, the parody national anthem from the film's soundtrack, which acclaims Kazakhstan for its high-quality potassium exports and having the second cleanest prostitutes in the region, was mistakenly played at the Amir of Kuwait International Shooting Grand Prix. The gold medalist, Mariya Dmitriyenko, stood on the dais while the entire parody was played. The team complained, and the award ceremony was restaged. The incident apparently resulted from the wrong song being downloaded from the Internet.
Accusations of ethnic defamation
The European Center for Antiziganism Research, which works against negative attitudes toward Romani people, filed a complaint with German prosecutors on 18 October 2006, based on Borat's references to Gypsies in his film. The complaint accuses him of defamation and inciting violence against an ethnic group. As a consequence, 20th Century Fox declared that it would remove all parts referring to Romani people from trailers shown on German television as well as on the film's website.
Before the release of the film, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a statement expressing concern over Borat's characteristic anti-Semitism. Both Baron Cohen (who is Jewish) and the ADL have stated that the film uses the title character to expose prejudices felt or tolerated by others, but the ADL expressed concern that some audiences might remain oblivious to this aspect of the film's humor, while "some may even find it reinforcing their bigotry".
Censorship in the Arab world
The film was banned in the entire Arab world except for Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates (which released the film heavily censored). Yousuf Abdul Hamid, a film censor for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, called the film "vile, gross and extremely ridiculous". The censor said that he and his colleagues had walked out on their screening before it had ended, and that only half an hour of the film would be left once all the offensive scenes were removed.
The soundtrack for Borat was released on the iTunes Store on 24 October 2006, and in shops on 31 October 2006. The album included music from the film, five tracks entitled "Dialoguing excerpt from moviefilm", as well as the controversial anti-Semitic song "In My Country There Is Problem" from Da Ali G Show.
The folk music included in the soundtrack has no connection to the authentic music of Kazakhstan. The album features songs by Gypsy and Balkan artists (mostly Emir Kusturica and Goran Bregovic) and includes music by Erran Baron Cohen, founding member of ZOHAR Sound System and brother of Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen, as well as songs sung by Sacha Baron Cohen himself in character as Borat.
The Region 2 DVD was released 5 March 2007, with the Region 1 release the following day. Special features include deleted scenes, faux advertisements for the soundtrack album, and a complete Russian language translation audio track using a professional dubbing cast, along with the English, French, and Spanish language tracks common on Region 1. There is also a choice of Hebrew, but this is merely a joke; choosing the Hebrew language option results in a warning screen reading "You have been trapped, Jew!" which warns the viewer not to change his shape and to keep his claws where they can be seen, again playing on the anti-Semitism supposedly prevalent in Borat's version of Kazakhstan. It also includes footage of Borat's publicity tour for the film, with Baron Cohen in character as Borat on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, the Toronto International Film Festival, and Saturday Night Live. The bonus features conclude with a news segment from a Virginia TV station about Borat's night at the rodeo, complete with an interview with rodeo owner Bobby Rowe.
As a play on the copyright infringement common in the former Soviet Union, the packaging of the Region 1 (United States/Canada), 2 (Europe/Japan/South Africa/Middle East), and 4 (Latin America/Oceania) editions mimics a foreign bootleg DVD. The slipcover is in English but the case itself has all-Cyrillic text (a majority of which is in legitimate Russian, not faux Cyrillic) and is made to look poorly photocopied. The disc itself is made to look like a "Demorez" DVD-R with the slogan "Is life? No. Demorez.", a parody on "Is it live, or is it Memorex?" ad campaign, and the word "BOЯAT" appearing to be crudely written in marker with the "R" written backwards. The UMD version is similar to the DVD, even being labelled a "UMD-R" (which do not exist). Even the Fox in-cover advertising is written in broken English that appears poorly printed, indicating that there are "More movie discs available from US&A" and "Also legal to own in Kazakhstan".
There are further jokes within the DVD itself. The menus are styled as a worn, static-laden film on an erratically functioning projector, with more Cyrillic writing accompanied by translations in broken English. The DVD is described as a "prerecorded moviedisc for purpose domestic viewing of moviefilm", and the viewer is warned that "selling piratings of this moviedisc will result in punishment by crushing". The DVD's collection of trailers promises that the depicted films are "coming Kazakhstan in 2028". By April 2007, the DVD had sold over 3.5 million copies, totaling more than $55 million in sales. Borat was released on Blu-Ray in the US on November 9, 2009 as a region free disc.
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