I think all of you reading this review know the joke behind Borat and his film, so I’ll only say a few things before commenting on the DVD. First: Sacha Baron Cohen has amazing fortitude, to be able to endure people threatening to kick his a*s and still stay in character. The same should be said for people’s positive responses to the sexist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic things Borat says, especially considering the fact that Cohen is Jewish.
Second: “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” isn’t just a series of comedic bits, as you might think if you saw him on Cohen’s HBO series, “Da Ali G Show.” There’s a storyline concerning his quest to find Pamela Anderson in California and convince her to marry him, despite the fact that his corpulent producer thinks those plans wouldn’t sit well with the Kazakh government. There’s plenty of bickering between them, culminating in the now-infamous naked brawl that extends through a hotel lobby and into a conference room. It’s not David Mamet-type stuff, but it’s still a spine off which to hang all of his encounters with hapless people who think he’s real.
The DVD Fox sent me was a special screener with watermarks on the video and a label warning of the horrible things that will happen if I let copies of it loose on the Internet, but my understanding is that the retail DVD was made to look like a bootleg disc. Ah, the irony. The DVD menus feature scratchy footage with off-kilter sound and Russian titles loosely translated into English.
The “Censored Footages” section is where you’ll find eight deleted scenes totaling about 30 minutes. There’s lots of great stuff in here, including an hysterical commercial for a Kazakh version of “Baywatch” called “Sexydrownwatch.” Under “Promotions of Moviefilm,” we have the “Global Propaganda Tour,” a 16-minute piece that compiles Borat’s appearances on “Saturday Night Live,” “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” and “The Tonight Show,” along with footage from various worldwide premieres of the film. We also get that impromptu press conference he did in front of the Kazakh embassy when the film came out.
Rounding out this DVD are “Musics Informercial,” a commercial for the film’s soundtrack that’s made to look like it was shown in Kazakhstan, where cassettes are hailed as the latest in audio technology, and a few trailers for current American films that are set to premiere in Kazakhstan in 2028.
“Borat” is a great movie that highlights something a lot of people in this country don’t want to acknowledge: This may be the best nation in the world, but we still harbor plenty of bigotry that the civil rights movement didn’t magically erase. As someone who has seen such attitudes first-hand, I wasn’t surprised by Mr. Rodeo Guy’s desire to hang gay people, nor Southern Frat Boys’ sexist and racist beliefs. And I’m also not surprised by those who want to defend them, claiming they were somehow “tricked” into behaving that way. If someone points a camera at you, you’re responsible for how you behave, as far as I’m concerned, whether or not you think the result will only be shown in Kazakhstan.
While the film and the deleted footage speaks for itself, it would have been nice to have a commentary track on this DVD, if only to hear the behind-the-scenes stories (supposedly there was a warrant out for Cohen’s arrest in New York City at one point, for example). It would also be nice to have a documentary with interviews with Cohen, director Larry Charles, et al talking discussing how the film came about and so forth. It would also be fun to hear from some of the movie’s unwitting participants; well, at least, the ones who aren’t currently engaged in litigation.