Sacha Baron Cohen’s most controversial character may be resurrected for an imminent Borat sequel ahead of the US election – but in 2020, will it hit home or fall flat?
In true Cohen fashion, the film is said to put a satirical (and wildly politically incorrect) lens over some of the most contentious and noteworthy stories of this year.
It is expected to cover President Donald Trump’s relationship with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, and his government’s failure to respond adequately to the coronavirus pandemic.
Film website Collider was among the first to hint at a forthcoming sequel, and said it had even been exclusively screened for a “select few industry types”.
A release date remains unknown, but rumours suggest fans can look forward to the film dropping sometime before election day on November 3.
The sequel, which is tipped to be titled Borat: Gift of Pornographic Monkey to Vice Premier Mikhael Pence to Make Benefit Recently Diminished Nation of Kazakhstan, has reportedly been filmed in secret during the pandemic, with various sightings of Cohen in character taking place all over the US.
In June, the comedian crashed a right-wing, pro-gun rally with a crowd of more than 500 people.
Littered with anti-Asian and anti-Semitic rhetoric, Cohen snuck into the event in full disguise and performed a parody song in which he took aim at everything from the World Health Organisation, Bill Gates, the Clintons, the Obamas, the #MeToo movement and “the Wuhan Flu”.
Sacha Baron Cohen infiltrated the Washington militia event in Olympia today.
A last-minute big donor paid to sponsor the event, and hire security & then that security kept the organizers from getting on stage to stop Cohen
"Whatcha gonna do? Chop em up like the Saudis do".
— Tee *36 Days Until Change*😷 Mitch (@InsideASCIF) June 28, 2020
A week later in early July, a disguised Cohen approached former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani for a surprise spoof interview before fleeing when Mr Giuliani called the police.
“This guy comes running in, wearing a crazy, what I would say was a pink transgender outfit,” Mr Giuliani told Page Six.
“It was a pink bikini, with lace, underneath a translucent mesh top. It looked absurd. He had the beard, bare legs, and wasn’t what I would call distractingly attractive.
“I only later realised it must have been Sacha Baron Cohen. I thought about all the people he previously fooled and I felt good about myself because he didn’t get me.”
The strongest piece of evidence indicating a Borat sequel is in the works is a video that emerged in August and showed Cohen in character, driving through Los Angeles.
Bringing back Borat…
The new Borat film won’t be the first time its creator has taken aim at everyone from the far left to the radical right.
Between his follow-up film, Bruno, and Cohen’s acclaimed political satire series Who Is America?, the creator has been able to bring a series of absurd, extreme and, somehow, believable characters to life.
From a rabid yet misinformed, far-right Trump fanatic to an ultra-liberal, leftist and self-described “self-hating white male”, Cohen has covered it all.
Now, he is ready to resurrect his most notorious (and, arguably offensive) character.
But much has changed in the 14 years since Borat first hit our screens.
The 48-year-old, who is Jewish, has defended the original film’s extreme and offensive humour as a way to provide satirical commentary on people’s prejudices.
In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2006, Cohen said the titular character “essentially works as a tool”.
“By himself being anti-Semitic, he lets people lower their guard and expose their own prejudices, whether it’s anti-Semitism or an acceptance of anti-Semitism,” Cohen said.
“Throw the Jew Down the Well was a very controversial sketch, and some members of the Jewish community thought it was actually going to encourage anti-Semitism, but to me it revealed something about that bar in Tucson,” Cohen said of the controversial parody song.
“And the question is: Did it reveal that they were anti-Semitic? Perhaps. But maybe it just revealed that they were indifferent to anti-Semitism.
“I remember, when I was in university, and there was this one major historian of the Third Reich, Ian Kershaw. And his quote was ‘The path to Auschwitz was paved with indifference’.
“I know it’s not very funny being a comedian talking about the Holocaust, but I think it’s an interesting idea that not everyone in Germany had to be a raving anti-Semite. They just had to be apathetic.”
With racial and political tensions at an all-time high in the US, and the rest of the world in the grips of a global pandemic, will Cohen’s propensity to poke fun miss the mark, or could it be just what we need?