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Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Poster in faux cyrillic style
Directed by Larry Charles
Produced by Sacha Baron Cohen
Jay Roach
Written by Sacha Baron Cohen
Peter Baynham
Anthony Hines
Dan Mazer
Todd Phillips
Starring Sacha Baron Cohen
Ken Davitian
Luenell
Pamela Anderson
Music by Erran Baron Cohen
Cinematography Luke Geissbuhler
Anthony Hardwick
Editing by Craig Alpert
Peter Teschner
James Thomas
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) November 3, 2006 (2006-11-03)
Running time 84 minutes
Country United States
United Kingdom
Language English
Hebrew
Armenian
Budget $18 million
Gross revenue $261,471,111

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan is a 2006 mockumentary comedy film directed by Larry Charles and distributed by 20th Century Fox. It was written, produced by, and stars the British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen in the title role of a fictitious Kazakh journalist traveling through the United States, recording real-life interactions with Americans. It is the second film built around one of Baron Cohen's characters from Da Ali G Show, following Ali G Indahouse, which also featured a cameo by Borat.

Despite a limited initial release in the United States, the satire was a critical and commercial success. Baron Cohen won the 2007 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor: Musical or Comedy, as Borat, while the film was nominated for Best Motion Picture in the same category.[1] Borat was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 79th Academy Awards.

Controversy surrounded the film even two years before its release. It was denounced for having a protagonist who is sexist, homophobic, and antisemitic (although the director, and both producers—including Baron Cohen—are Jewish), and, after the film's release, some cast members spoke against, and even sued, its creators. All Arab countries, except for Lebanon, banned it,[2] and the Russian government discouraged cinemas there from showing it.[3] It was released on DVD March 5, 2007 (a day later in Region 1 countries).

Contents

Plot

Borat and Azamat meet with the fictitious Kazakh Ministry of Information, which commissions them to make a documentary.

Borat Sagdiyev, a popular Kazakh television personality, leaves his homeland of Kazakhstan for the "Greatest Country in the World," the "US and A" to make a documentary film at the behest of the fictitious Kazakh Ministry of Information. He leaves behind his mother, his wife, Oksana, and other colorful characters of the town including "the town rapist", "the town mechanic and abortionist", and brings along his producer Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian), and his pet chicken, Buh-Kaw. Much of the movie features unscripted vignettes of Borat interviewing and interacting with Americans, who believe he is a foreigner with little or no understanding of American customs.[4]

While in New York, he sees an episode of Baywatch on television and immediately falls in love with Pamela Anderson. While interviewing a panel of feminists (and discreetly laughing at their beliefs), he learns her name and that she lives in California. Borat is informed via telegram that his violent wife has been violated and killed by a bear. Delighted by the news, he secretly resolves to go to California to make Anderson his new wife. Borat and Azamat were supposed to remain in New York, but Borat justifies the trip to California by telling his skeptical producer that "Pearl Harbor is there. So is Texas." Because Azamat is afraid of a repetition of the September 11, 2001 attacks, which he believes were the work of the Jews, he will not fly there, so Borat takes driving lessons and buys a dilapidated ice-cream truck for the journey.

During the cross-country trip, Borat acquires a Baywatch television show booklet at a yard sale, and continues gathering footage for his documentary. He meets gay pride parade participants, politicians (including Alan Keyes and Bob Barr) and African American youths playing cee-lo. He is also interviewed on live television and proceeds to disrupt the weather report. Visiting a rodeo, Borat, after first exciting the crowd with jingoistic, pro-U.S. remarks, sings a fictional Kazakhstan national anthem to the tune of "The Star-Spangled Banner", which receives a strong negative reaction. Staying at a bed-and-breakfast, Borat and his producer are stunned to learn their hosts are Jewish. Fearful of death ("or worse") at the hands of their hosts, the two "escape" after throwing money toward cockroaches, believing they are their Jewish hosts self-transformed. While Azamat advises a return to New York (where, he believes, "at least there are no Jews"), Borat attempts to purchase a handgun to defend himself against Jews. When told he cannot buy a gun because he is not an American citizen, Borat purchases a bear (which he names after his late wife) for protection.

Borat later attends a private dinner at an eating club in the South, at which he (unintentionally) insults or otherwise offends the other guests, and visits an antique shop with a display of Confederate heritage items, breaking glass and crockery.

The journey is interrupted when Borat, just out of the bathtub, exits the bathroom of his hotel room and sees Azamat masturbating over a picture of Pamela Anderson in the Baywatch book. Borat becomes enraged and reveals his real motive for traveling to California. Azamat becomes livid at Borat's deception, and the situation escalates into a fully nude brawl, with what have been described as having homoerotic undertones,[5] which spills out into the hallway, a crowded elevator, and ultimately into a packed convention ballroom. The two are finally separated by security guards.

As a result, Azamat abandons Borat, taking his passport, all of their money, and their bear, whose head is later seen inside Azamat's motel refrigerator. Borat begins to hitchhike to California, but is soon picked up by Anthony, Justin, and David, drunken fraternity brothers from the University of South Carolina. On learning the reason for his trip, they show him the Pam and Tommy sex video, revealing that she is not the virgin he thought she was. After leaving the three students, Borat becomes despondent, burning the Baywatch booklet and, by mistake, his return ticket to Kazakhstan. He regains his faith after attending 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 learns to forgive 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 and Azamat 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 he is tackled and handcuffed by security guards. Afterwards, Borat seeks out and marries a prostitute named Luenell, whom he had befriended earlier in the film, and returns to Kazakhstan with her. The final scene shows the changes that Borat's observations in America have brought to his village, including the apparent conversion of the people to Christianity (the Kazakh version of which includes crucifixion of Jews) and the introduction of computer-based technology, such as iPods, laptop computers and a high-definition, LCD television.

The film plays out with a recapitulation of a mock 'Kazakhstan' national anthem glorifying the country's magnesium resources and its prostitutes as being the "cleanest in the region". The visual melange of Soviet-era photos are mixed with the real flag of Kazakhstan and, incongruously, the final frames show the portrait of Ilham Aliyev, real life president of Azerbaijan, a country that had not been otherwise referenced in the movie.

Cast

Baron Cohen, in character as Borat, at the Cologne premiere of the film.
  • Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat Sagdiyev: Borat is a fictional journalist from Kazakhstan, distinguished by exaggeratedly strong misogyny, anti-Semitism 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.
  • Ken Davitian as Azamat Bagatov: The producer of Borat's documentary. Azamat was a new character created for the film. Davitian, as "The fat guy from Borat", was included at number two on a list of "The 100 Unsexiest Men" by the Boston Phoenix.[6]
  • Luenell Campbell as Luenell the prostitute: Luenell is first seen when Borat calls her to come to the Southern dinner, the climax of his effective destruction of the event.
  • Pamela Anderson as herself: Pamela Anderson 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".[7]

Deleted scenes

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 dog 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 a 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: "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 which also starred Azamat, Luenell, and Alexandra Paul.

A scene in which Borat was apparently imprisoned was also filmed, but was removed under the threat of legal action by prison officials when they learned the "documentary" was, in fact, a satire.[8]

One of the film's writers, Dan Mazer, confirmed, in an interview, that there was a scene filmed, but cut, in which Borat took part in the shooting of actual pornography. Mazer claimed the scene was deleted so as not to compete with the naked hotel-fight, but hinted it might be included in future DVD releases.[9]

Production

Pamela Anderson was one of the few actors to appear in the film.

With the exception of Borat, Azamat, Luenell and Pamela Anderson, none of the characters are portrayed by actors.[4][7][10] Most scenes in the film were unscripted,[4] 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.[11] Filming 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.[12]

An interview with Baron Cohen by Rolling Stone indicated that over 400 hours of footage had been shot for the film.[13]

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 behavior 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.[14] The name of Borat's neighbor, Nursultan Tuyakbay, is a cross between the names of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and opposition politician Zharmakhan Tuyakbay.

No Kazakh language is heard in the film. Borat's neighbors in Kazakhstan were portrayed by gypsies, who were unaware of the film's subject.[15] 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 lettering on the aircraft in the beginning of the film is in fact merely the result of English 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 Azamat Bagatov actually speaks Armenian.[16] They also use several common phrases from Slavic languages: Borat's trademark expressions "jagshemash" (jak się masz) and "chenquieh" (dziękuję) echo the Polish (or other related languages) for "How are you?" and "thank you".[17] While presenting his house, Borat says "tishe" to his house-cow; "tiše/тише" is Russian (similar words exist in other Slavic languages) for "quiet(er)" or "be quiet".[18]

Screenings and release

Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat at the 2006 Comic Con, promoting the film
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Previews

Borat was previewed at the 2006 Comic-Con International in San Diego, California, on July 21, 2006.[19] Its first screening to a paying audience was during the 2006 Traverse City Film Festival,[20] where it won the Excellence in Filmmaking Award.[21]

The film's official debut was in Toronto on September 7, 2006, at the Ryerson University Theatre during the Toronto International Film Festival. Sacha 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.[22] The film was successfully screened the following night, with Dustin Hoffman in attendance.[23]

In Israel, a proposed poster depicting Borat in a sling bikini was rejected by the film's advertising firm in favor of one showing him in his usual suit.[24]

Scaled-back U.S. release

In late October 2006, less than two weeks before the film's debut, Twentieth Century Fox scaled back its American release from about 2,000 to 800 cinemas after marketing-survey data showed unexpectedly poor levels of audience awareness. The move surprised industry professionals, who could not recall such a move being made so close to a film's release.[25] Despite this move, the film opened at number one in the box office, maintaining first place for two weeks straight. The film actually earned more in the second week ($28,269,900) than in the first ($26,455,463), due to an expansion onto 2,566 screens.[26]

Theatrical release

Borat had its public release on November 1, 2006, in Belgium, and by November 3, 2006, it had opened in the United States and Canada as well as 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[27] until Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert in 2008. [28] However, its opening day (approximately $9.2 million)[29] was larger than that of the Hannah Montana concert (approximately $8.6 million)[30], 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. [31]

Reception

Critical

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan was well received by critics. In an article about the changing face of comedy, The Atlantic Monthly said that it "may be the funniest film in a decade".[32] 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."[33] Rotten Tomatoes classified it as one of the best-reviewed films of 2006, with an aggregate "fresh" rating of 91%.[34]

One negative review came from American critic Joe Queenan, who went as far as to call Baron Cohen an "odious twit."[35] 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 actually demonstrated amazing tolerance on the part of the film's unknowing subjects, especially citing the reactions of the guests in the Southern dinner scene to Borat's behavior.[36]

Commercial

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 number one on its opening weekend with a total gross of $26.4 million,[27] beating its competitors Flushed Away and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause. The film's opening weekend's theater 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.[37] It retained the top spot in its second weekend after expanding to 2,566 theaters, extending the box office total to $67.8 million.[31]

In the United Kingdom, Borat opened at number one, with an opening weekend gross of £6,242,344 ($11,935,986),[38] the 43rd best opening week earnings in the UK as of March 2007.[39] Since its release, Borat has grossed over $260 million worldwide.[40]

Awards and nominations

Borat received a nomination at the 79th Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, although the award ultimately went to The Departed.[41] It was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award under the category of Best Motion Picture: Musical or Comedy, but lost to Dreamgirls.[1] The Broadcast Film Critics Association named it the Best Comedy Movie of 2006, and the Writers Guild of America, west nominated it for their award for Best Adapted Screenplay.[42][43]

Baron Cohen won a Golden Globe for Best Actor: Musical or Comedy.[1] 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.[44][45][46][47] The Los Angeles Film Critics Association tied Baron Cohen with Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland for their title of Best Actor, while the former was nominated for the title by the London Film Critics Circle.[48][49]

It has been featured in multiple top ten lists of films in 2006, including lists by the American Film Institute, Time Magazine, Rolling Stone, David Ansen for Newsweek and Lou Lumenick for The New York Post.[50][51][52][53]

On June 3, 2007, Sacha Baron Cohen won the MTV Movie Award for best Comedic Performance for Borat.

Retirement of Borat character

A third film by Baron Cohen was released in 2009 — 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.[54]

Rupert Murdoch announced in early February 2007 that Baron Cohen had signed on to do another Borat film with Fox.[55] This was contradicted, however, by an interview with Baron Cohen himself stating 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.[56] A spokesman for Fox later stated that it was too early to begin planning such a film, although they were open to the idea.[57]

Baron Cohen subsequently announced that he was "killing off" the characters of Borat and Ali G on the grounds that they were now so famous he could no longer trick people.[58]

Controversies

Participants' response

The lengthy disclaimer at the end of the film

Prior to being considered for appearance in the film, all potential participants were required to sign long release forms agreeing not to take legal action for any defamation of character or fraud carried out during the film's production. The usual disclaimer included at the end of the film's credits, stating that all characters in the film were fictitious, also noted that "No real person depicted or appearing in the film has sponsored or otherwise endorsed its contents."

After the film's release, Dharma Arthur, a news producer for WAPT-TV 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 AP that she left the station.[59] She claims to have checked a public relations website that Borat's producers gave her before booking him.[60]

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 movie, 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.[12] 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."[61] Cindy Streit, Borat's etiquette consultant has subsequently hired high-profile attorney Gloria Allred, who is demanding the California Attorney General investigate fraud allegedly committed by Baron Cohen and the film's producers.[62] The guest whom Borat had described as a "retard" after "misunderstanding" a statement that he was retired (spoken with a drawl), commented that "I have never been more hurt in my life. When I first found out that the footage was going to be used for a film released in North American cinemas I felt confused, embarrassed, and angry. For the rest of my life I will have to live with the fact that I am featured in a film that contains strong language, nudity, and sex. I am floored."

There are conflicting reports regarding the feelings of the participants in the scenes in which Borat and Azamat stay at a guest house owned by a Jewish couple. The British tabloid The Sun claims that a scene depicting cockroaches running around in their home has hurt Mariam and Joseph Behar's business in Newton, Massachusetts. The couple were quoted as saying, "This is very insulting. They never told us they were going to do this. It is really terrible."[63] However, the Salon Arts & Entertainment site quotes the Behars as calling the film "outstanding," referring to Baron Cohen as "very lovely and very polite" and a "genius."[4] 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.[64]

The feminists from Veteran Feminists of America (VFA) also 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.[65]

The New York Post had reported in November 2006 that Pamela Anderson filed for divorce from her husband Kid Rock after he reacted unfavorably to the movie 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?"[66] Anderson later confirmed in an interview on The Howard Stern Show that Rock was upset by her appearance in the film, but did not confirm this was the cause of the separation.[67]

There has been some debate in United Pentecostal circles regarding the camp meeting's depiction in the film. United Pentecostal ministers are barred from attending mainstream movies at all, and the faithful are strongly admonished against it.[68]

Legal action by participants

The villagers of Glod, Dâmboviţa County, Romania, have taken 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.[15] Some claimed 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 still did not even cover their expenses.[14] They are claiming $38 million.[58] One 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. The litigants said they planned to refile.[69]

Two of the University of South Carolina fraternity brothers who appeared in the film, Justin Seay and Christopher Rotunda, sued the producers, claiming defamation.[70][71][72] The suit by Seay and Rotunda was dismissed in February 2007.[71] The students also had sought an injunction to prevent the DVD release of the film, which was denied.[70][71][72][73]

Another lawsuit was filed by a South Carolina resident who claimed to have been 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.[74]

The Macedonian Romani singer Esma Redžepova has also sued the film's producers, seeking €800,000 on the grounds that the film used her song "Chaje Šukarije" without her permission.[75][76] Finally, Redžepova won a €26,000 compensation, since it turned out that Cohen got permission from her production house to take the song, which she was not notified about.[77]

A lawsuit was launched by Felix Cedeno, who wants $2.25 million from 20th Century Fox, claiming they invaded his privacy and needed permission to use his image. The 31-year-old was riding the subway home to the South Bronx when Sacha Baron Cohen let a live hen out of his suitcase, causing chaos in the subway car.[78]

Baltimore resident Michael Psenicska is seeking 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 he had been told the film was a "documentary about the integration of foreign people into the American way of life" and had he known the film's true nature, he said, he would have never participated. Psenicska said he was entitled to damages because the defendants used images of him to advertise the film.[79] The case was dismissed on September 9, 2008.[80]

Jeffrey Lemerond, who was shown running and yelling "go 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.[81]

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?'"[58]

Criticism by Kazakhstan

Borat has had a history of controversy with the government of Kazakhstan. 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.[82][83] In September 2006, the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, visited President of the United States George W. Bush for talks, with Kazakhstan's post-Borat international image among the items on the agenda.[84] 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.[85] Uzbekistan is, throughout the film, referred to by Borat as his nation's leading problem—leaving aside the Jews.

Kazakhstan has not banned the film but has urged that it not be distributed. 20th Century Fox's distribution subsidiary in the region, Gemini Films, complied.[3]

The Kazakhstani 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 claimed that the film was "…certainly not an anti-Kazakh, anti-Romanian or anti-Semitic" but rather "cruelly anti-American … amazingly funny and sad at the same time."[86] 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."[87] Amazon UK has also reported significant numbers of orders of Borat on DVD from Kazakhstan.[88] The film is also watched regularly by the Kazakhstan national football team's players.[89]

Accusations of racism

The European Center for Antiziganism Research, which works against negative attitudes toward Roma people, filed a complaint[90 ] with German prosecutors on October 18, 2006, based on Borat's references to Gypsies in his film. The complaint accuses him of defamation and inciting violence against an ethnic group.[91] As a consequence, 20th Century Fox declared that it would remove all parts referring to Roma people from trailers shown on German television as well as on the movie's website.[92]

Prior to the release of the film, the Anti-Defamation League released a statement expressing concern over Borat's characteristic anti-Semitism.[93] While Baron Cohen himself is Jewish and has stated that he uses Borat to expose the prejudices felt or tolerated by others,[94] the organization remained concerned that some audiences might remain oblivious to this aspect of the film's humor while "some may even find it reinforcing their bigotry."[95]

Censorship

The film was banned in the entire Arab world,[96] except for Lebanon.[96] Yousuf Abdul Hamid, a film censor for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, called the film “vile, gross and extremely ridiculous.” The censor also noted he and his colleagues had actually walked out on their screening before it had ended, and that only half an hour of the movie would be left once all the offensive scenes were removed.[96]

In Russia, the Federal Culture and Cinematography Agency refused to certify the film for distribution, effectively banning it from the country's theaters.

Soundtrack

The soundtrack for Borat was released on October 24, 2006, on iTunes Store, and October 31, 2006 in shops. 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.[97]

DVD release

The Region 2 DVD was released March 5, 2007, with the Region 1 release the following day.[98][99] Special features include deleted scenes, faux advertisements for the soundtrack album, and a complete Russian language translation audio track using a professional dubbing cast, in addition to the English, French, and Spanish language tracks common on Region 1 (US/Canada) DVDs. There is also a choice of Hebrew as well, 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 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 The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night With Conan O'Brien, the Toronto Film Festival, and Saturday Night Live. Also, there is a section of a news story from Virginia, about Borat and the rodeo he visited with the Rodeo owner (Bobby Rowe) being interviewed

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 (a parody of Memorex, with the similar slogan "Is life? No. Demorez.") with the word "BOЯAT" appearing to be crudely written in marker and the "R" written backwards.[100] The UMD version is similar to the DVD, even being labelled a "UMD-R" (which do not actually 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 with 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 these films are "coming Kazakhstan in 2028."

The DVD has sold 3,971,007 copies, making $62,567,857 in profit.[101]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c "Nominations & winners", Hollywood Foreign Press Association, 2006. Retrieved on 2007-03-17.
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