11/7/06

Borat is probably hilarious but I will not watch it in theaters



I think Sasha Baron Cohen is a trailblazer in comedy. I think his comedic act is at times hilarious and he often asks relevant questions. I watched clips of "Borat"the movie on the web and I laughed wholeheartedly. I am even biased towards liking him because he was the Lemur King in "Madagascar" the animated movie.
I also believe humor is the best way to address and fight ignorance and bigotry. But I won't watch "Borat" in theaters.
Why ?
Because I believe in some ways, "Borat" lost its purpose by picking Kazakhstan as his country of citizenship. Cohen's appeal is his willingness to push the envelope to expose bigotry and racism in a humoristic manner. I have no problem with that. However, he "chickened out" by choosing Kazakhstan. Why picking on them and portraying them as an antisemitic country? Because the abroad community of Kazakhstan is not that influential and in the grand scheme of the global village, Kazakhstan has very little pull. And that is my main problem with the movie.
Let's imagine this scenario for a second:
Jamel Debouze, famous French comedian of Maroccan descent and producer of the very important movie "Indigenes"(days of Glory in US) , makes a movie about a local Malagasy reporter who is send to France to learn about French culture. He puts a little make-up on ( not too much because Jamel could pass as a Malagasy), speaks a broken French language, carries a chicken in the Parisian metro and openly wonders why there are so many blacks and Arabs in France.
It could make for awesome comedy and could expose some lingering issues in France.
Still, I would obviously have a problem with it because:
1) It would give a bad name to Madagascar.
2) He would not be Malagasy and yes it does matter in that circumstance.
3) Finally, he would have chosen Madagascar because realistically on the global scale, no one cares if Malagasy people are offended. We don't matter that much yet. Try that being a Nigerian or an Algerian and it would be a whole different story.
Of course, it's all hypothetical right now, but this is exactly what people of Kazakhstan are faced with right now. And Why ? Because they don't matter much compared to the other nations.
I love you Sasha but this I cannot condone. So I will watch Ali G on tv but there will be no Borat in theaters for me.



15 comments:

  1. jury's still out on if it's good or bad for Kazhaksthan to be mentioned in this way - I think it's good because it gets known in the west - apparently their tourism operators are having a good time riding on the popularity of the movie.

    The problem is if people believe that Kazhaks are anti-semitic - because they are not... they are a majority muslim country that has a great record of religious tolerance. (Hopefully that comes out in the reviews of the movie).

    ReplyDelete
  2. >Mosi,
    I could see that some exposure is beneficial for turism but I cannot imagine how Kazakhstan can be better off with the perception that they are slightly backwards and prejudiced. Stereotypes can stick so easily and most of the movies was shot in Bulgaria,right?
    Had he picked a powerful nation such as Saudi Arabia for instance or with a strong community abroad, then I would have appreciated his courage. But here, it feels like picking on the weakling ;). I should applaud him for taking on the mighty US though Now that is gutsy, especially butchering the beloved national anthem..:).

    ReplyDelete
  3. hey, moi aussi je viens de voir la bande annonce de ce film au ciné justement (en allant voir le dernier woody Allen) :) Barat m'a l'air très drôle mais c'est vrai que ce n'est pas un film a voir au ciné ;)

    OT. Sitrana hatramin'ny aretiko nahita an'i Skarlety :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. OH MY GOSH!!!LOL I LOVE BORAT!!! I was waiting for a malagasy blogger to give a review on his new movie/documentary...Did you see the little "sketch" when he sang as a cowboy aahahahaha toooo funny!!! By the way he is numero uno in the US box office, beating santa claus 3 ;)
    http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/huge-borat-matinees-today

    ReplyDelete
  5. Before it was not known at all, now it's at least known, and people will look twice when going for a vacation. I was also hoping that with the hoopla around the movie people would read about Kazakhstan and find out about the good stuff. He would have done much better to pick a country that does not exist, like you said.

    ReplyDelete
  6. > Hjk,
    Na efa manakaiky fahafatesana ary dia sitrana mahita an'i Skarlety ;) Content de savoir que le pied va mieux.
    > Mirana,
    It is great news that Borat can be #1 in the US. :) As long as one can laugh at oneself, there is hope for the future :).
    Cinthia in DC had a review about the movie:
    http://cinthia.wordpress.com/2006/11/06/borat-no-bore/

    ReplyDelete
  7. >Mosi,
    The publicity could really help and I am a big advocate of free press. Myabe he should got here as suggested, that would be a nice gesture.

    ReplyDelete
  8. really lova...
    since malagasy people are cool with the fact that they are assimilated with Lemurs....remember....King Julian....some zoo....penguins....some lost animals.......an island....and some Lemurs/people ...
    3 billions pairs of eyes were starring at us for the first time in our history and we did pretty much nothing but dancing the "i like to move it" national anthem...yes right...I'm starting to think that it was too easy and we are waiting for something classier than a childish cartoon make the move...just waiting for J.R.Ewing to exploit our oil maybe?
    Khazaks must USE this opportunity to promote themselves even if they have nothing to prove :they must USE it!!! so i'm with Mosilager on this one!
    It's a globalized world so play by your rules because...there are No rules!!

    tchussss yall

    ReplyDelete
  9. Jo,
    Agreed to a certain point. However, Madagascar was a cartoon so the humor is so well defined that there is no ambiguity. A character movie is more subtle and stereotyping of a rather unknown nation can be induced much easier. But I hear you, Jo, I hear you ;).

    ReplyDelete
  10. You're missing the point here. The movie is not about Kazakhstan at all. It's about America. Sacha Baron Cohen uses the relatively unknown country of Kazakhstan to show how ignorant Americans can be.

    He could have taken any other country, provided that it was relatively unknown and little heard of (Madagascar definitely could have been used here although last year's animated feature already put it on the American radar). It's easier to fool people if they've barely ever heard of the country. It has nothing to do with how powerful and influential the country in question is so long as it's obscure enough for the real targets - the Americans - to buy what you're going to tell them about it.

    Yes, he could have picked a fake country, but would the people he encountered throughout his road trip have believed him and taken him seriously? Most Americans may not know much about Kazakhstan, but they know it exists somewhere out there. Borat simply would not have worked using a fictious country; people are just not that stupid.

    You also can't take what he says about Kazakhstan at face value because everything he says about it is so outright absurd and ridiculous. Even in the Middle Ages, the kind of stuff he talks about could not have happened! What he says is NOT meant to be taken seriously.

    Finally, Borat is a devout Jewish himself and if anything, he's anti anti-semitic. It's not the Kazakh he's trying to expose as being anti-semitic; it's some of the conservative Middle Americans who act like they're good people, but hide prejudices within.

    ReplyDelete
  11. hello Cinthia,

    I read your comment and I understand most of your points. However, I still disagree with the name thing. Had he come up with a made-up name such as Uzbekistar and given the demographic he was exposing, would those people really see the difference between a made up country and a country they never heard of ? I doubt it, if they were running along with the all Borat's shtick, they are that stupid to begin with. The upside is that you don't offend a country for unnecessary reason.
    I am also well aware that America is the target ans the point of the movie. This is even more reason not to risk shifting the attention towards an existing country. I might even argue that it would have strengthen his point by not distracting from the real issue.
    I know Cohen is Jewish. However he put hate words in Borat's mouth, fictional Borat is from Kazakhstan ergo there is potential for labeling the country as such. I know it's all comedy and everything has to be taken with a grain of salt. My point is Cohen could have easily sidestepped those issues by not putting the spotlight on Kazakhstan to begin with. Is it totally unconceivable that a student from Kazakhstan in a US college is now being asked by his classmates whether his country is faced with a race problem ? Unfair, considering the country is one of the most religiously tolerant muslim country. All in all, Borat must be a great movie, but from my perspective, until he makes it right with Kazakhstan, it's a no go.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hey Lova,

    Borat is so like "yesterday", let's go and see the next James Bond...Actually he was sent to the big country of the MADAGASCAR to spy on little terrorists in Casino Royal...

    héhéhéhhéhé
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0381061/plotsummary
    I think it' so Brukheimerish and sexy as well...héhééhhé

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks for the tip Jo, I might check it out just to check out how Mollaka looks like in Malagasy traditional clothes :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Gonna watch that movie with Jamel !!! Should be very funny...
    But you're right, they should choose "La Bordurie" hhhhhhhhhh It could be more polically correct ;-)

    BTW Borat was officially invited by Kazaks gvt !
    We should have invited Madagascar's char too hhhh

    ReplyDelete
  15. La Bordurie :)
    J'ai mis 2 min a capter...mille sabords !
    Maintenant je souris comme un gamin :)

    ReplyDelete