The Kazakh-American Association has launched a campaign to ban Borat 2 from the season's major award shows for its portrayal of the Kazakh community.
A Kazakh-American group has launched a campaign to ban Borat Subsequent Moviefilm from the Oscars and other major awards. Fourteen years after the release of Sacha Baron Cohen's hit mockumentary film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, the sequel premiered on Amazon Prime Video in October with a massively successful opening, quickly becoming one of the biggest streaming hits of the year. Though the original 2006 film was a commercial and critical success, earning Cohen a Golden Globe award for his performance, it was surrounded by controversy even before it was released.
The mockumentary followed Cohen's character Borat Sagdiyev, a reporter for Kazakhstan TV who travels across the United States to learn the truth about American culture for a documentary he is making. Borat's outrageous interactions and interviews with real unsuspecting Americans who were tricked into believing he is a naive foreigner trying to understand American customs made for hilarious and controversial scenes. While considered a groundbreaking comedy in the U.S., the film caused outrage among Kazakhstan leaders for its portrayal of Kazakhstanis. It was even banned in almost all Arab countries and discouraged from playing in Russian theaters. However, since its release, Kazakhstan has warmed up to the film and credited it for increasing tourism numbers. Much like the original film, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm features many controversial scenes, from its embarrassing portrayal of public figures to Kazakhstan's representation.
The Kazakh-American Association has launched a campaign to have Borat Subsequent Moviefilm banned from the Oscars, Golden Globes, and other major award shows this season. In letters co-signed by the Hollywood Film Academy and Council on American-Islamic Relations, the organization calls on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, Hollywood Foreign Press Asociation, the Directors Guild of America, and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts to disqualify Borat 2 for its discrimination of the Kazakh people. Hollywood Film Academy CEO Gia Noortas wrote in a letter to the Academy:
"The Kazakh community worldwide is underrepresented and inherently vulnerable. Sacha Baron Cohen understands this fact and exploits the Kazakh people by hijacking our ethnic identity, whitewashing us, and inciting harassment toward us. Considering today’s socially aware political climate and the new diversity policies adopted by film associations worldwide, it is unbelievable that a film which openly berates, bullies, and traumatizes a nation of people of color is still an acceptable form of entertainment."
CAIR Director Nihad Awad went on to write:
"We join Kazakh-Americans in calling for film associations to ban the Borat sequel from awards consideration. We recognize that Mr. Cohen sometimes uses his bigoted characters to expose bigotry in others. However, Mr. Cohen cannot counter racism and bigotry against some people while perpetuating racism and bigotry against other people, especially Kazakh-Americans, whose real culture may be unfamiliar to most Americans."
The original film garnered numerous award nominations. Along with Cohen's Golden Globe win, the film was nominated for Best Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. The sequel has also received early Oscars buzz, with many saying Bulgarian actor Maria Bakalova deserves an Oscar nomination for her role as Borat's teenage daughter.
It's no surprise that Borat Subsequent Moviefilm has sparked controversy, as Cohen purposefully portrays Kazakhstan as anti-Semitic and sexist. However, Cohen has previously commented that the film's version of Kazakhstan is fictional and is not meant to be associated with the real country. Cohen certainly pushes boundaries with his movies, but only does it to mock the worst parts of American culture and expose racism, sexism, and discriminatory behavior in others.