What's real in "Borat 2"?

From the now-infamous Giuliani "shirt tuck" to Borat's five days bunking with QAnon believers, here's the truth

By Ashlie D. Stevens
October 27, 2020 10:18PM (UTC)
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Sacha Baron Cohen stars in "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" (Amazon)

Sacha Baron Cohen's "Borat" sequel began making headlines way before it hit Amazon — from reports of a Trump impersonator crashing the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to Baron Cohen sightings at a Washington gun rights rally. 

Oh, and then there was the whole Rudy Giuliani "shirt tuck" debacle. 

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In the film, 14 years after his last trip to the United States, journalist Borat (Baron Cohen) is sent by Premier Nursultan Nazarbayev to deliver "Kazakh Minister of Culture" Johnny the Monkey to Vice President Mike Pence. This goes awry, and suddenly Borat finds himself without the monkey and in possession of his 15-year-old daughter, Tutar (played by 24-year-old actress Maria Bakalova) instead. Borat determines that Tutar would be the ideal child bride for Pence, and together they set out to prepare her for her new life in the States. 

Now, the film is finally out and it's raising a ton of questions about what is real in the mockumentary and what is fabricated — including whether Kazakhstan is a real place. Answer: Yes, though citizens are very split on Baron Cohen's depiction of the country.

Here's a breakdown of each scene and what we know: 

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The Scene: Borat's daughter, Tutar, interviews Rudy Giuliani 
Where: A New York City hotel room

Tutar scores an interview with former New York City mayor and Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani, supposedly to discuss the Trump administration's COVID-19 response, but things devolve as Tutar flirts heavily with Guiliani, touching his knee several times. Eventually, Guiliani blames China for the coronavirus pandemic, then agrees to eat a bat with her. 

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Tutar then invites Giuliani into the hotel bedroom — where there are a number of hidden cameras. He follows and asks for her phone number and address while he sits on the bed. Tutar then reaches to remove Giuliani's microphone and touches his pants, as he pats her backside. Giuliani then lies back on the bed and puts his hand down his pants. 

Borat bursts into the room at that point, declaring "She's 15! She's too old for you!" Giuliani immediately sits up and tries to leave as quickly as possible. Borat calls after him: "Rudy, Trump will be disappoint! You are leaving hotel without golden shower!"

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What happened: Giuliani has maintained through several interviews that the scene was "doctored" footage. 

"The Borat video is a complete fabrication. I was tucking in my shirt after taking off the recording equipment," Giuliani wrote in a tweet on Oct. 21. "At no time before, during, or after the interview was I ever inappropriate. If Sacha Baron Cohen implies otherwise he is a stone-cold liar."

As Salon's Roger Sollenberger reported, Giulliani is classifying the scene as a political "hit job" " in retaliation for his recent smears on Democratic nominee Joe Biden's son, Hunter. 

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But on Monday, Baron Cohen told Stephen Colbert during a "Late Show" interview that he has questions about what Giuliani considers "appropriate." 

"Do you have anything to say to Rudy Giuliani about going into a bedroom with supposedly a teenage girl to drink whiskey and zip your pants up and down?" Colbert asked the actor. 

"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," Baron Cohen replied. "I mean, I don't want to ruin the movie for anyone, so I would just say, see it and make your own mind up."

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The Scene: Borat, dressed in a Trump costume, crashes the Conservative Political Action Conference
Where: The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Borat wants to present Tutar to Mike Pence as a child bride and decides that the best time to do so would be during the vice president's speech at the 2020 Conservational Political Action Conference (CPAC). 

After infiltrating the conference lobby by dressing as a Klansman (mentioning to passersby that he is Stephen Miller, Trump's senior advisor) he locks himself in a restroom and dresses up as Donald Trump, complete with an orange-toned mask and body padding. 

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Once he's dressed, he tosses Tutar over his shoulder and bursts into the ballroom, screaming, "I brought the girl for you!" 

He's ejected by security.

What happened: I know this year feels like 15 shoved into one, but you may remember reports back in February of  Trump impersonator crashing CPAC? Yep, that was Baron Cohen. 

At the time, a spokesperson for the Prince George's County Police Department told ABC News in an email that the convention center asked for help to escort the individual from the premises, but that the department was not pursuing charges against the man.

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However, as Newsweek reported, CPAC and its organizers, the American Conservative Union (ACU), have decided to pursue legal action over their depiction in the film. 

"In a letter sent to Sacha Baron Cohen and production company Four By Two Films, the ACU demands that they, 'immediately cease and desist from using any content filmed during CPAC in Borat 2 and its trailers," Newsweek reporter Samuel Spencer wrote. 

He continued: "They later added: 'If Amazon and the Borat team somehow believe that racism and white supremacy is amusing or entertaining, please know that CPAC strongly disagrees and finds repugnant your trivialization of the KKK's legacy of hatred, intimidation, and murder.'" 

The scene: Borat sings at a March for our Rights 3 Rally
Where: Heritage Park in Olympia, Washington

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Borat, disguised in a beard and overalls, takes to the stage at the "March for Our Rights 3," a pro-gun event initiated as a response to 2018's student-led March For Our Lives demonstration held shortly after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. 

Once he grabs the microphone, he begins to sing: "Obama was a traitor/ America, he hate her. He belong inside the jails. I ain't lying, ain't no jokes, corona is a liberal hoax. Corona is a liberal hoax."

"Obama, what we gonna do?" he continues. "Inject him with the Wuhan flu. Dr. Fauci, what we gonna do? Inject him with the Wuhan flu."

Some members of the crowd sing along, loudly cheering when he asks the crowd whether journalists should be injected with the coronavirus or whether people should "chop them up like the Saudis do." 

What happened: According to a Facebook post from Yelm City Councilman James Connor Blair shortly after the incident, Baron Cohen's team "disguised as a PAC out of Southern California, paid for the stage setup and musical entertainment. Came on stage disguised as the lead singer of the last band, singing a bunch of racist, hateful, disgusting s**t."

"His security blocked event organizers from getting him off the stage or pulling power from the generator," Blair wrote. "After the crowd realized what he was saying, and turned on him, his security then rushed the stage and evacuated them to a waiting private ambulance that was contracted to be their escape transport."

Some of the crowd members recognized Baron Cohen at the time, according to the Seattle Times. Matt Marshall, founder of the far-right group Washington Three Percenters and emcee of the event, told the paper that the members of the crowd cheering the song were "paid agitators."

"We got had, I guess that'd be the best way to put it," Marshall said. "We got punked."

The scene: Borat and Tutar attend a debutante ball
Where: The historic Hay House in Macon, Georgia

As part of Tutar's transformation from feral teenager to child bride fit for Mike Pence, Borat decides she needs to undergo a makeover and practice her newfound social skills. After receiving advice from Instagram influencer Macy Chanel, Tutar is ready for her coming out party at a Georgia debutante ball. 

To signal Tutar's fertility, she and Borat engage in a graphic choreographed dance, which concludes with her flashing her blood-covered crotch to the horrified attendees. 

What happened: According to Hay House operations manager Cliff Sims, the shoot was booked under "false pretenses." 

"It was not discussed or approved by the Macon Film Commission," Sims told a local television station after the "Borat 2" trailer was released. "What was discussed with the production company during the initial rental is not what happened or transpired on site."

Will Davis, one of the fathers in attendance, wrote a first-person essay about the night for the Monroe County Reporter. 

"Our friends had been contacted by a movie company that wanted to film a fictional scene of Southern belles making their debut," he wrote. "The company would pay fathers and daughters $100 apiece, and all we had to do was dress up, dance a little and enjoy free cuisine and drinks at the beautiful antebellum Hay House in downtown Macon." 

According to Davis, interested attendees were given a pop culture quiz before being officially cast that tested their knowledge of certain events and whether they could identify various actors and politicians. Based on their responses, attendees were split into two groups — Groups A and B. 

"A friend who was there called me later that night," Davis wrote. "He had talked with some other attendees and determined that our crazy Georgian guest was in fact Sacha Baron Cohen, the comedy actor whose movie 'Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan' made famous his Eastern European character. My friend had discovered that everyone on our Team B were those who could not identify Cohen in the online test." 

He continued: "Cohen's modus operandi seems to be trying to embarrass and shock southern conservative audiences on film. Of course our cotillion friends, having been hoo-dooed into hosting the charade, were humiliated and apologetic." 

The scene: Borat takes Tutar to a crisis-pregnancy center
Where: South Carolina 

Borat gives Tutar a cupcake that is decorated with a small plastic baby. She accidentally swallows it, and the pair go about trying to figure out how to get it removed. They end up at a "crisis-pregnancy center" where they are counseled by Pastor Jonathan Bright, who is the founder and executive director of Faith for Fathers, a South Carolina Christian organization designed to "help dads leave a Godly legacy." 

What happened: Borat informs Bright that he "put the baby inside her," and makes it clear to Bright that Tutar is his daughter. Borat says that he was just trying to give Tutar pleasure and that the whole situation is a mistake. 

Bright responds, "I don't need to hear any more of that," he says. "Really, that is not important right now. We're at this moment. It really doesn't matter how we got to this moment." 

Salon reached out to Bright and Faith for Fathers, neither of which have returned a request for comment. 

The scene: Borat visits a Holocaust survivor
Where: A synagogue in Atlanta 

Tutar tells Borat that the Holocaust didn't happen, based on a post she read on a Holocaust denier's page on Facebook. To find out the truth, Borat dons an incredibly antisemitic costume and visits a synagogue where he meets Judith Dim Evans and her friend. 

Evans and the other woman embrace Borat, despite his offensive attire. Evans, in particular, kisses him, feeds him soup and educated him about the Holocaust, which she experienced firsthand. 

What happened: Evans died before the movie premiered, and the film is dedicated to her. However, her family filed a lawsuit against the production company, claiming that Evans was unaware the movie was satire and that it was meant to "mock the Holocaust and Jewish culture." 

The suit, however, was dismissed by Fulton County Georgia Judge Kevin Farmer. According to Deadline, he referred to several defects in the plaintiff's case, some of which were pointed out by the defendants.

Russell Smith, who repped Amazon in the proceeding, said that Baron Cohen was deeply grateful for the opportunity to work with Judith Dim Evans.

"[Her] compassion and courage as a Holocaust survivor has touched the hearts of millions of people who have seen the film," Smith said. "Judith's life is a powerful rebuke to those who deny the Holocaust, and with this film and his activism, Sacha Baron Cohen will continue his advocacy to combat Holocaust denial around the world." 

According to Deadline's sources close to the filmmakers, Cohen's team also notified Evans about the real nature of the scene after it was shot. Deadline also reports there is footage of Evans being told the context of the scene, as well as Cohen's real identity.

The scene: Borat hires a babysitter for Tutar
Where: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

In the film, Borat takes Tutar to get plastic surgery, but finds himself short on the cash needed for her breast implants. So, he gets a job and takes Tutar to stay with Jeanise Jones, a babysitter, while he's away.

Jones is horrified by Borat's treatment of Tutar. He feeds her treats to reinforce her good behavior, uses a dog clicker to get her attention, and instructs Jones to give Tutar water from a dog bowl. 

Jones gently pushes back on Tutar's beliefs that women can't read or drive, and her desire for plastic surgery. "I mean, I understand what you're saying, that your daddy told you that, but that's not the real world," Jones tells her.

She also encourages Tutar to forgo plastic surgery and consider her future career. "Think about going to school. Use your brain. Because your daddy is a liar, OK?"

What happened: Jones was an immediate hit with viewers; one Twitter user described her as the "moral compass" of the film. 

But in an interview with the New York Post, Jones said that she felt betrayed by the film crew. 

"I'm feeling like she's from the 'Third World' and that kind of stuff does happen where they sell women," Jones said. "I'm thinking this is for real so I felt kind of betrayed by it."

According to Jones' pastor, Derrick Scobey, the production approached Ebenezer Baptist Church in Oklahoma City about needing a "sassy" black grandmother in her 70s to participate in a documentary and landed on Jones after speaking to a few other congregants. 

Scobey has now set up a GoFundMe for Jones, saying that she wasn't paid much for her participation (some reports say about $3,500) and that her fans could say "thank you to Jeanise with a tangible gift. She's unemployed right now due to Covid. Previously, she worked on a job for 32 years."

The scene: Borat spends five days with QAnon believers
Where: Lakewood, Washington

After the novel coronavirus was declared a global pandemic and business shutdowns begin, Borat finds himself wandering the streets of Lakewood, Washington. There he meets Russell and his roommate, Jerry Holleman, two Trump-supporting QAnon believers. 

Borat spends five days in their home while they attempt to explain some of their internet conspiracy theories to him. They also help him compose the racist song that he would eventually sing at the March for Our Rights 3 gathering. 

What happens: In an interview with the New York Times' Maureen Dowd, Baron Cohen described the experience as "the hardest thing [he] had to do." 

"I lived in character for five days in this lockdown house," he said. "I was waking up, having breakfast, lunch, dinner, going to sleep as Borat when I lived in a house with these two conspiracy theorists. You can't have a moment out of character."

However, Salon could not locate Russell and Holleman for comment. 

"Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.

 


Ashlie D. Stevens

Ashlie D. Stevens is a staff writer at Salon, specializing in culture.

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