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The untold truth of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

In late 2020, Amazon Video unveiled a surprise that millions found to be "very nice" — the first Borat movie in 14 years. Back in 2006, Sacha Baron Cohen became an international sensation with Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Reprising his Da Ali G show character, a crude, sexist, antisemitic reporter from the nation of Kazakhstan, the comedian took a road trip across the United States, interacting with real and unsuspecting people as he claimed to learn about American customs but really served Cohen's true, satirical purpose: to highlight, expose, and mock prejudice and racism. 

The sequel, Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, finds the reporter sentenced to life in a work prison for embarrassing his home country, but given the chance to redeem himself by delivering a gift to American Vice President Mike Pence — Borat's teenage daughter, Tutar (Maria Bakalova), after she eats the first prize, Johnny the Monkey. The film once again pits Cohen, in character, against real Americans with controversial views, and shocking, provocative, and hilarious comedy ensues. Here's everything there is to know about Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is a quickie project that was years in the making

Because Borat Subsequent Moviefilm was made so quickly, and under a veil of secrecy, the project's existence was something of a surprise. Amazon announced in September 2020 that the film, which had finished shooting only weeks earlier, would be available for streaming a month later. This belies the fact that a sequel to the original Borat film took years and a few false starts to get off the ground. At a conference in February 2007, Rupert Murdoch, the chief executive of the company that owned Borat distributor 20th Century Fox, announced that Sacha Baron Cohen had signed on to make Borat 2. That project was essentially declared dead in 2007 when Cohen told The Daily Telegraph that he was retiring two of his best known characters: Ali G and Borat. "When I was being Ali G and Borat I was in character sometimes 14 hours a day and I came to love them, so admitting I am never going to play them again is quite a sad thing," he said (via Variety).

Cohen went on to other roles in other things, such as the 2016 action comedy The Brothers Grimsby, which Cohen promoted with an appearance in character as Borat on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Borat costar Ken Davitian told Showbiz 411 that Cohen used that opportunity to jump back to Borat's world, and was planning to go write a sequel... which only transpired four years later.

Comedy is a waiting game for Sacha Baron Cohen

The way Borat infiltrated the 2020 CPAC conference — the Republican conflagration where Vice President Mike Pence was a featured speaker — didn't go down in reality exactly as portrayed in the film. In Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Borat conceals his unwelcome self under a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood, claiming to be President Trump advisor Stephen Miller. Then Borat safety makes his way to a bathroom, where he dons an elaborate disguise to make himself resemble a grotesque version of Trump. Cohen holds a Trump mask in the bathroom but when he emerges in full Trump regalia, he's clearly received a professional makeup job. Cohen told the New York Times that he had to wait in that bathroom for five hours until Pence finally came out on stage. But the Trump disguise was completed before Cohen entered CPAC, which is what was really hidden under the white robe. (Turning Cohen into Trump took makeup artists five hours to complete.)

Speaking of killing time out of necessity and the sake of comedy, Cohen really did quarantine in rural Washington state with conservatives Jerry and Jim. He lived with them for five whole days in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, and he even enlisted his two accidental, temporary roommates' help in writing the song he'd perform at the "March for Our Rights" rally as "Country Steve."

Introducing Maria Bakalova as Tutar

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm marks the triumphant return of one of satirist Sacha Baron Cohen's most famous characters, a boorish, sexist journalist from a Kazakhstan backwater. The breakout character of the 2020 comedy is Tutar, Borat's heretofore unknown 15-year-old daughter who lives in a barn by his house and becomes the nation's gift to American Vice President Mike Pence. Subsequent Moviefilm marks the Western film debut for 24-year-old Bulgarian actor Maria Bakalova, who, prior to portraying Tutar, acted in less than a dozen other projects, including the Bulgarian films Transgression, Last Call, and Xlla. None of those projects are particularly well-known to English-speaking comedy audiences in the U.S. and elsewhere, but Subsequent Moviefilm's producers still endeavored to make sure Bakalova's performance — which runs the comedy gamut from pretending to eat a monkey to confronting Rudy Giuliani — was a revelation. Pre-release press materials claimed that the actress portraying Tutar was named Irina Novak, for whom, of course, no footprint or acting recording existed.

In reality, Bakalova studied at Bulgaria's National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts, and beat out more than 600 other women interested in playing Tutar. Subsequent Moviefilm producers put out an open call, and Bakalova sent in a videotape, auditioned in person in London, and Cohen personally selected her to play his daughter.

The secrets of the debutante ball scene

Before she can be gifted to Mike Pence, Tutar undergoes an extensive physical and personality makeover which includes "coming out" at a traditional, genteel debutante ball in Macon, Georgia. Borat and Tutar claim to be "Sandra Jessica Parker Drummond" and "Professor Phillip Drummond III" and stir things up with a provocative daddy-daughter dance whose humor relies heavily on menstruation and prodding the fathers of some of the other debutantes to say wildly inappropriate things about young women. 

Subsequent Moviefilm is presented in a way that viewers would believe Cohen and Bakalova crashed a cotillion, but the production actually created the event. Filmmakers rented out the Hay House in Macon in February 2020, telling venue staff that they were making a coming-of-age documentary, and then hired local fathers and daughters $50 each to be extras and to take part in what was staged to look like a real debutante ball. (Participants also had to take a quiz to determine whether or not they could recognize Cohen — those who could not were preferred.) "The filming was a rental done under false pretenses. It was not discussed or approved by the Macon Film Commission," Hay House Operations Manager Clint Sims told Georgia TV station WMAZ. Once the shoot got too "risqué," according to Sims, Hay House staff ended filming prematurely and kicked out the whole Moviefilm cast and crew.

The media reported on Borat's antics before it knew Borat was out there

The revelation of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm took the world by surprise, but Sacha Baron Cohen left clues around the United States months before the film hit Amazon, and before the public even knew the project was in production. In February 2020, ABC News reported that a Donald Trump impersonator interrupted a speech by Vice President Mike Pence at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland. Security escorted the screaming faux Trump from the premises of the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center and sought the assistance of the local Prince George's County Police Department, but no criminal charges were filed against the well-disguised interloper. 

As the release of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm would demonstrate six months later, that Trump impersonator was Cohen, in character as Borat, with actress Maria Bakalova slung over his shoulder and intended as a "gift" for Pence. In July 2020, Page Six reported that former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani called police over a Cohen-orchestrated prank interview, and the movie also proved Los Angeles residents who predicted a new Borat-based movie correct — a few spotted Cohen dressed in that signature grey suit and driving a pickup truck in Southern California, and they posted photos on social media.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm didn't cast Rudolph Giuliani in the best light

Late in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, the Kazakhstan government orders Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) to present his daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova) to Rudolph Giuliani, former New York City mayor and personal attorney to Donald Trump. Tutar agrees to go meet with Giuliani in a hotel room, posing as a journalist. But Borat cannot let his daughter debase herself and he crashes the meeting, offering himself in place of Tutar. At the exact moment Cohen busts in, Giuliani, who up to that point has been very handsy and flirtatious with who he thinks is a teenage journalist, lays prone on a bed with his hands down his pants. Cohen chose that time for his entrance because he grew "quite concerned" for Bakalova's safety. "It's my responsibility as a producer as well to ensure that the lead actor is looked after," he told Good Morning America.

After the scene leaked in October 2020, Giuliani denied any wrongdoing. "I am tucking my shirt in, I assure you, that's all I was doing," he said on his radio show. Then the attorney took to Twitter, calling the footage "a complete fabrication." Cohen, however, said it's "pretty clear" what went down. In a brief video as Borat, he mock-defended Giuliani, saying that the "fake news media" had made "something disgusting" out of "an innocent sexy-time encounter between a consenting man and my 15-year-old daughter."

Many scenes were deleted from Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

As Sacha Baron Cohen traveled around the United States as Borat, with Maria Bakalova along as Borat's daughter Tutar, hoping to find an audience with a powerful politician, the makers of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm compiled far more footage than they could include in the final cut of the movie. There are many completed scenes and sequences filmmakers ultimately deleted. 

Amazingly, Bakalova, after her character completed her transformation from abandoned teenager into conservative television reporter, gained entry to the White House, escorted in by One America News Network correspondent Chanel Rion. Bakalova was also invited to a fundraiser for President Donald Trump's re-election campaign, where she met Donald Trump, Jr. Not only was Bakalova not detected as an actor associated with a satirical comedy film, but she wasn't asked to go through a security check or submit to a coronavirus test, captured in footage released by Cohen (in character as Borat) on Twitter. Filmmakers additionally opted not to include Borat's interview with Texas Agricultural Commissioner Sid Miller, and material that appeared in the trailer, such as Borat wondering if teen wizard Harry Potter is a pervert, and Borat getting stopped by traffic police for allowing Tutar to ride on the roof of his truck (as "only man and bears are allowed inside").

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm was a dangerous project

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is the second Borat movie, but it made history as the first film made amidst nationwide coronavirus-caused shutdowns. Within 24 hours of production companies being cleared to start making movies again, the Subsequent Moviefilm team — a necessarily limited crew — was out on the road gathering footage. While venturing out during a pandemic is dangerous enough, Cohen felt unsafe in other ways. According to Deadline, he had to wear a bulletproof vest on at least two separate occasions, including the day he showed up at a gun rights rally and upset attendees, who tried to drag him out of his exit vehicle.

Cohen had a big reason to complete the movie in a timely manner: He wanted it to be released before Election Day 2020. "We wanted it to be a reminder to women of who they're voting for — or who they're not voting for," Cohen told the New York Times. Because the coronavirus pandemic led to the widespread closure of movie theaters, Borat filmmakers had little choice but to sign with a streaming service in order to ensure the film reached viewers by mid-October 2020. The winning party, who could guarantee getting it out in time and had few reservations regarding the film's incendiary political content: Amazon.

Judith Dim Evans made invaluable contributions to Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

One of the most affecting moments in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm begins with some of the film's most audacious satire. Borat, proudly anti-Semitic and believing that the Holocaust didn't happen after reading a denialist Facebook page, heads to a synagogue to commit suicide — he has no money to purchase a gun, so he figures he'll just wait for the next American mass shooting. He disguises himself as a grossly offensive, over-the-top stereotypical idea of a Jewish person, but gets called out on his awfulness by Judith Dim Evans, an elderly woman who bravely stands up to Borat and tells him the Holocaust did, in fact, occur, and that she bore witness to it. 

According to Deadline, Sacha Baron Cohen broke his own filmmaking precedent and let Evans and her companion in on the joke, letting them know that he was making a satirical comedy film and that he, in fact, is Jewish. Subsequent Moviefilm distributor Amazon packaged into its "X-Ray" bonus content the complete story of Evans' Holocaust story, and when Evans died shortly after filming, the production helped Evans' family create a memorial website. Subsequent Moviefilm is dedicated to her memory. However, Evans' estate later sued the filmmakers, claiming that their late relative was not properly informed of the nature of the film and that she had unwittingly helped "mock the Holocaust and Jewish culture."

Where are Luenell and Azamat?

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm packs in a lot of plot, fictional characters from Borat's inner circle in Kazakhstan, and inadvertent cameos from real people, but two people from the first Borat movie from 2006 are notably absent: Luenell (played by comedian Luenell), an American sex worker Borat married in the first Borat movie, and Azamat (Ken Davitian), Borat's producer and wrestling partner.

Luenell, both the character and actor, doesn't show up in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm because filmmakers couldn't figure out a way to include her. According to a source who spoke to IndieWire, they looked into including her via archival footage or new material, and Luenell was paid a modest amount should she be featured in the movie in some way. No new material was ever shot, and no old footage was incorporated into the new film. As for Davitian, Borat's sidekick from the previous Borat? He was not asked to participate in the sequel. (His character's absence is explained, however, in shocking and explicit fashion.)

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