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The Statesman

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The Statesman

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    Borat

    British comedian and star of the unscripted ‘Da Ali G Show,’ Sacha Baron Cohen has managed to create a film that is a perfect combination of his hilarious improvisational antics and a documentary. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan seems to be the pinnacle of his comedic career so far. His tactics, as he poses as a Kazakh television journalist to interview everyone from random New Yorkers, to politicians, to movie stars, to high society, are edgy to say the least.

    The plot is idiotically simple, but it and the movie’s feature length may be the only things that set it apart from Cohen’s Borat character sketch on his television show. Borat journeys from Kazakhstan to New York City to Los Angeles to collect news footage to better his native country and to pursue a love affair with Pamela Anderson, who makes a gauche cameo. This is the plain storyline that unites a stream of awkward, candid interviews and situations. Essentially, the movie’s main purpose is not to tell a story but rather to humiliate and exploit Cohen’s unsuspecting and often well-intentioned victims.

    No one in the film was cast before filming other than Cohen, Kevin Devitian who plays his travel companion and manager, and those who act as Borat’s neighbors and family in the opening and closing scenes showing Borat’s life in Kazakhstan. Every American encounter Borat has on his journey is completely un-staged, convincing all he meets that he is actually a reporter for a Kazakh news station. The result is a series of meetings that set the audience ill at ease, knowing that these were real life situations facilitated by Cohen. But every squirming onlooker is completely vulnerable to laughter as they watch ridiculous situations unfold upon the unassuming.

    Cohen comically redefines dramatic irony. Borat is totally ignorant to American customs, bringing a prostitute to a high society dinner, kissing strangers on the street, showing naked pictures of his adolescent children, and wrestling naked with his cohort in the middle of a professional convention.

    There is no doubt that Cohen is testing viewer tolerance of stereotypes, blatantly offending Middle Eastern culture and other ethnicities. But what keeps the movie from veering too far from political correctness is Cohen’s genius manipulation of his real life subjects and brilliant editing. Through these means, it is clear that the social condition Cohen mostly points out is that of the idiocy and unawareness of the American people who are uninformed in even their own international policy, and who, as depicted in the film, know nothing about the customs and cultures of others. He completely mocks Americans from the impersonal New York City, to the close-minded Bible Belt, from college fraternities, to the strange and colorful happenings of Los Angeles.

    Borat is a caricature of Middle Eastern stereotypes fabricated based on American assumptions. He is fake, but the depictions of United States citizens are sadly and embarrassingly real. And if any American viewer laughs harder at the racial slurs and the ignorance of Borat than at the incompetence of his own nation, well then Cohen is especially making fun of him.

    In its opening weekend, Borat drew in $26.5 million, showing nationwide on only eight hundred and thirty seven screens. Second place went to The Santa Clause 3, which grossed $19.5 million at a whopping 3,458 sites. Congratulations Cohen. ‘Is great success.’

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