Trump V. Borat

Moviefilm controversy for make benefit Sacha Baron Cohen

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: features comedian Sacha Baron Cohen back in his role as Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev. The film debuted on Amazon Prime Friday, and if you believe the early numbers according to Amazon, it picked up “tens of millions” of viewers.

Baron Cohen uses the character to visit the Conservative Political Action Committee conference and lampoon the State Fair of Texas, among other high-concept hijinks. But the film’s antics can’t compete with the real-life controversies surrounding the comedy sequel.

First, there was the whole Rudy Guiliani situation. The movie finds President Trump’s lawyer in a compromising position, where he tucks in his shirt and seems to put his hands down his pants while Maria Bakalova, in character as Borat’s teenage “journalist” daughter, removes their recording equipment.

Guiliani called the scene a “hit job” and said he knew he was being set up to look bad.

The film has gotten many positive reviews, but not from President Trump.

The president called Baron Cohen a “creep” on Air Force One Friday and told reporters that he was not a fan of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.

Trump also said he was the only person who saw through Baron Cohen’s Ali G character years ago, when Baron Cohen set him up  for an interview about business.

“But, you know, years ago he tried to scam me. And I was the only one that said, ‘No way. This guy is a phony guy.’”

Trump left the interview after about a minute, a skill he recently displayed with Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes.

Baron Cohen responded the next day on Twitter and offered Trump a job, saying “Donald—I appreciate the free publicity for Borat! I admit, I don’t find you funny either. But yet the whole world laughs at you. I’m always looking for people to play racist buffoons, and you’ll need a job after Jan. 20. Let’s talk!”

He also made light of the comments in an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert:

“I’m sure when he was hanging out with his good friend Jeffrey Epstein, they probably spent a lot of their time talking about how creepy I am and yes, I am a professional phoney like him,” he said of Trump. He also told Colbert he wasn’t convinced about Guiliani’s intentions in the hotel scene.

“Well, he said that he did nothing inappropriate, and you know, my feeling is if he sees that as appropriate, then heaven knows what he’s intended to do with other women in hotel rooms with a glass of whiskey in his hand,” he said.

Elsewhere, 62-year-old Jeanise Jones, who the film recruited to play a “babysitter” to Borat’s daughter, told news outlets the production had duped her.

“I was recruited to be in a ‘Documentary’. At ABSOLUTELY NO time did I know this was a satirical comedy movie and that I was being ‘setup’ so to speak,” she wrote on Facebook.

If those shenanigans weren’t enough, Baron Cohen recently revealed just how hard it was to film the Borat sequel—he said people almost attacked him at a right-wing rally once they figured out who he was.

“Under my overalls, I was wearing a bulletproof vest, but it felt inadequate with some people outside toting semiautomatic weapons,” Baron Cohen told Stephen Colbert. “When someone ripped open the door to drag me out, I used my entire body weight to pull the door back shut until our vehicle maneuvered free. I was fortunate to make it out in one piece.”

The one poignant piece of news out of all of this, though, revolves around one of the film’s biggest jokes. Borat walks into a synagogue dressed as a caricature of a Jew (the aim of the joke was to draw attention to anti-Semitism, a hallmark of Baron Cohen’s work) when he meets Judith Dim Evans, a Holocaust survivor who immediately talks to him and earnestly preaches love and acceptance.

He dedicates the film to Evans, who died before it was released. Reports say Baron Cohen broke his rule about never cluing people in on the joke and had producer tell Evans he was doing a bit to educate people about the Holocaust and continued discrimination against Jewish people. He reportedly even helped create a website in Evans’ honor. In recent interviews to promote the film, Baron Cohen has been calling out social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter for their continued allowance of Holocaust deniers.

But Evans’ daughter Michelle Dim St. Pierre filed a lawsuit seeking her mother’s removal from the film, saying the studio misappropriated her mother’s likeness. A Georgia judge disagreed, and Evans is in the film today.

Amazon said earlier this week that soon, viewers will be able to view a video through Amazon Prime’s X-Ray feature where Evans talks about her family’s experiences during World War II.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Apparently, Kazakhstan stopped worrying and learned to love the jokes and embraced Borat’s signature catchphrase to use in tourism videos.

Very nice!

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Jake Harris

Jake Harris is a Texas-based journalist whose writing about pop culture and entertainment has appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Nashville Scene and more. You can find more of his writings at jakeharrisbog.com or through his pop culture newsletter, Jacob's Letter.

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