Movie review: Borat lands in North America

By Paul Jarvey

Every so often a film staggers out of that horrid, fleshy place good comedies come from willing to make any sacrifice for some hardcore laughs, ready to be banned and burned if it means making a fool of some unsuspecting pussy-magnet-driving, homophobic, celebrity-worshiping Americans.

The film is a mockumentary starring Borat, a fictional character from Sacha Baron Cohen’s popular Da Ali G Show, who introduces himself as the “number two television reporter in Kazakhstan.” His mission is to travel across the sea to learn the secret of American success, bringing with him only “my suitcase, clothing and jar of gypsy tears to protect me from AIDS.” With deadpan sincerity, Borat marauds through social faux pas after faux pas, tainting everyone he touches with embarrassment and satire. Every moment is saturated with sexism, racism, anti-semitism, bad manners and jokes about bears. And hilarity.

That said, it’s not surprising that some critics have found the film a tad offensive. Well, mostly in Kazakhstan. Borat is brilliant and effortlessly satirical, though it isn’t particularly nice to the little-known Eurasian nation. Breaching the hatch last November with a threat of “legal action” from the Kazakh Foreign Ministry and shutting down Borat’s .kz website, the government of Kazakhstan has more recently responded with a massive publicity campaign to combat stereotypes presented in the film, including a four page spread in the New York Times with an estimated price tag over $300,000 USD. Soon to follow, according to World Entertainment News Network, is a $40 million counter-documentary chronicling a native tribe’s heroic struggle to expel Mongol invaders.

Considering Kazakhstan’s GDP per capita is around one fifth that of the United States in 2005, that’s a lot of money. Then again, Cohen arrived in character at the Toronto International Film Festival, riding alongside a donkey in a wagon towed by peasant women. So maybe the Kazakhstanians have a point.

Borat responded to Kazakhstan’s objections with a staged press conference outside the gates of the Kazakh Embassy in Washington, D.C. to decry claims that Kazakh President Nazerbayev objected to his film as “Uzbek propaganda.”

“I would like to make a comment on the recent advertisements on television and in media about my nation of Kazakhstan saying that women are treated equally, and that all religions are tolerated,” Coen deadpanned. “These are disgusting fabrications.”

The glaring language barrier aside, the horrifying political incorrectness surrounding the creation of the film is fairly indicative of its sense of humour as a whole. It’s not for everyone, but for those who it appeals to, it’s better than trading three donkeys and two pots for an illiterate Russian bride.

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