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The International Writers Magazine: DVD Review

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) Dir. Larry Charles
Starring Sacha Baron Cohen, Pamela Anderson
Emma King

If there was ever a comedy that made such a phenomenal impact on its audience, it must be Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. From the ridiculously long title, to the lead’s uncontrollable obsession with a Baywatch star, this film is anything but banal.
Borat, as it’s become known, tells the tale of Borat Sagdiyev, (Sacha Baron Cohen, Ali G) a TV reporter from Kazakhstan who wants to learn more about the world. Borat heads to America under the will of his government to create a documentary on American people, culture, and society.

With an opening so simplistically funny, you will love this film from the first minute, as Borat welcomes you to his own culture. With a simple minded nature and lack or western values, Borat proudly introduces the members of his village from the local rapist to his prostitute sister, who he has incestuous relations with. And it’s the way that Borat doesn’t realize how morally wrong he is that makes him so amusing.

Soon into the film Borat arrives in New York City where he tries to understand American humour such as sarcasm and satire. The audience soon realizes that Borat has approached American society with the same innocence and naivety as he does his own country.

The whole film is spectacular, with Cohen using Borat’s ridiculous values to mock that of America’s. It’s like seeing the Western world through new eyes, showing us our own faults, prejudices and judgment. I think this is what makes it so funny, as Borat approaches every place, person and problem with the same ridiculously exciting enthusiasm, which sublimely points out our own flaws.

Cohen is a pure genius here, creating satire, sarcasm and laugh out loud humour through a character that consciously has none of these traits. Borat simply glides through the whole movie with the same passion and mannerisms, without realizing the affect he’s causing on those around him. All he wants is to find is his believed future wife, Pamela Anderson.

During his wacky yet banal styled road trip, Borat meets many groups of society and learns all about their different ways of thinking, which is a shock to our dearly dim lead role. For example, when Borat meets a group of feminists, he reveals it is a shock for him to believe that women can think for themselves by laughing at all their intelligent remarks. Equally, he travels on to meet religious groups and lots of local people, who like the feminists, he makes a startlingly rude impact on. And the reason he makes such a negative impact on them? Due to his lack of understanding, he is often racist, anti-semitic, sexist and homo-phobic towards his new found friends, but with such a pure expression, that despite his controversial approach to life, Borat will have you rolling with laughter.

However, it is those controversial aspects of the film that has caused such a huge uproar among many members of its audience. It appears that Borat is very much like Marmite; you either love its bravery to be so different and daring or you hate his need to use the ism’s for humour.

What the audience must realize though is that every prejudiced remark Borat makes, is Cohen hinting at the wrongs in our own society. He is simply using these comments and this idiotic character to point out everything we’re doing that should not be so. Cohen is almost showing us what would happen if an alien landed in America and tried to make sense of the way Western humans react to each other and the world around them. He is conveying how we treat outsiders; from foreigners to people of different faiths, gender and sexual orientations.

At the end of the day it’s not Cohen’s film we should be protesting against but ourselves, for not seeing our own errors. So if you’re not a fan of spoofs and dislike being shocked, then you’d best stay away as the inner working of this movie will be lost on you. However, if you’re a fan of comedies and mocking controversial behaviour, then Borat ‘Tis nice’ for you.
© Emma King November 2007

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