Borat: PopCulture Phenom

Sacha Baron Cohen, the star and creator of HBOs “Da Ali G Show, brings his Kazakh journalist character Borat Sagdiyev to the big screen for the first time.

Leaving his native Kazakhstan, Borat travels to America to make a documentary. As he zigzags across the nation, Borat meets real people in real situations with hysterical consequences. His backwards behavior generates strong reactions around him, exposing prejudices and hypocrisies in American culture. In some cases, Borat’s interview subjects embrace his outrageous views on race and sex by agreeing with him, while others attempt to offer a patriotic lesson in Western values.

Borat, a satirical Kazakh journalist caricature invented and portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen, became a phenomenon in the U.K. with the comedy series Da Ali G Show, in which Baron Cohens outlandish humor and razor-sharp satire on anti-Semitism, misogyny and racism, came to life through his creations bizarre behavior and interviews.

Baron Cohens innovative and unique work has brought him two BAFTA awards. Da Ali G Show was a worldwide phenomenon, and Baron Cohen is the only person to twice host the European MTV Awards. Dictionaries added two words based on his characters inventive use of the English language, and even the Queen Mother was a fan.

In addition, Baron Cohen received critical plaudits for his role opposite Will Ferrell in this summers blockbuster comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Also, Baron Cohen was the voice of the King of the Lemurs in Madagascar.

Even before its release, critics heralded BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN as one of the funniest pictures of all time, and it became the highest-rated comedy on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com). The films humor and acclaim stem from its comedy dream team: Sacha Baron Cohen, Larry Charles from Seinfeld and Jay Roach, director of the Austin Powers films. Baron Cohen and Roach are the films producers, with Charles serving as director.

The production of BORAT as one might expect about a project centered on the character was unlike any other. Baron Cohen, whose commitment to the role is unwaveringly intense, stayed in character through the shooting, and elected to conduct publicity and interviews promoting the picture, as Borat.

My profession television reporter. I second most successful in all Kazakhstan, Borat explains. I also have work in past as gypsy catcher, ice make, and in computer maintenance I would paint the outsides and remove dead birds from their pipes.

From those humble beginnings, Borat rose up the ranks of Kazakh broadcasting until he got his big shot at fame. 1 years ago, Kazakh Ministry of Information send me to US and A to make reportings that would help Kazakhstan, Borat recounts. We want to be like you. America have most beautiful womens in world for example Liza Minnelli and Elizabeth Taylor. It also center for democracy and porno. I like! I so excite to do my movie!

Filmmaker Jay Roach, who in addition to the Austin Powers films also helmed the mega-hits Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers, was fascinated by Baron Cohens work as Borat, and saw the potential for a movie starring the character. I think what Sacha does in this film is revolutionary, says Roach. Hes created a totally believable, hilarious, fish-out-of-water character. Then Sacha takes Borat into often dangerous predicaments with real people who have to believe Borat is authentic the entire time or else Sacha could face serious consequences. Thats fantastic suspense!

Sacha takes risks like no performer Im aware of, Roach continues. Hes a true comedic high-wire act. On top of that, whatever these real people do in the scene not only drives the scene, but changes the direction of the story. And its all insanely funny, even though he only gets one take for every performance. He does all that, and then also spoofs and holds a mirror up to racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, jingoism and hypocrisy. With no exaggeration, I believe what Sacha accomplishes with this character sets an entirely new standard for filmed performances.

It is this combination of explosive humor, rawness and satire that led Roach to believe that a Borat film could be very special and very different from traditional Hollywood comedies. We saw an opportunity to do a film that was bold, subversive and fresh, explains Roach. We wanted to transplant the reality format of [Da Ali G] TV show, which has Sacha in character, interacting with real people. Then, we created a story that supports a feature film.

Peter Baynham, Anthony Hines and Dan Mazer were drafted to write an outline for the film. There was no script. The movie is an experiment a new form of filmmaking for an age in which reality and entertainment have become increasingly intertwined. Real events with real people push the films fictional story, and when scenes played out in unexpected ways, Baron Cohen and his colleagues had to rewrite the outline.