Did the Borat film influence the US election?
Its star and creator Sacha Baron Cohen sure wants to think it did, and on reflection has now zeroed in on the moment he believes changed the national conversation.
“That’s why I made it, that’s why I had to have it out before November 3,” he told the ABC.
“It’s why I put myself in some really silly situations. So that was the ambition.”
If you somehow missed it, the sequel to the 2006 hit was released at the height of the US election campaign and set its sights on some of the biggest names in President Donald Trump’s orbit.
None more so than his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Mr Giuliani’s appearance made international headlines just weeks before the election after a still image from the film was released showing him in a compromising position in a hotel room.
The image comes from a scene shot in July, with Mr Giuliani thinking he was being interviewed by a TV reporter (who was actually actress Maria Bakalova starring as Borat’s daughter in the film).
After the interview, the pair go into the bedroom where Mr Giuliani lies on a bed, tucking in his shirt with his hands down his pants.
Mr Giuliani asks for her phone number and address before Baron Cohen rushes in wearing an outlandish outfit.
Bakalova is playing the role of a 15-year-old in the film, but there is no indication of her age to Mr Giuliani during the scene.
“Maybe the most impactful thing that it did was to discredit Rudy Giuliani,” Baron Cohen now says of the film.
“Although he’s done a pretty good job himself since.”
Baron Cohen said in retrospect, the timing of the film came at a pivotal moment in the news cycle during the US election.
“The movie came out on the day of the final presidential debate,” he said.
“And on that day Rudy Giuliani was giving over some fake information to discredit Joe Biden.
“Because the movie came out, the main image and the main talking point was not this information that was going to be used to undermine the Democratic campaign.
“Everyone was talking about why Giuliani had his hands down his trousers.”
Mr Giuliani has strongly denied he did anything wrong, calling the scene a “complete fabrication”.
Baron Cohen has form when it comes to derailing political careers.
In 2018, a Georgia congressman resigned after a bizarre appearance in Cohen’s mockumentary series Who Is America?
That series also tricked former vice-president Dick Cheney, whom Baron Cohen convinced to sign a “waterboard kit”.
Baron Cohen said his goal this time around wasn’t to bring anyone down, but to drive Americans to the polls.
“It was a plea for people to go out and vote. That’s actually how we ended the movie,” he said.
‘Very nice’ change of tune
In a notable change in reaction from the original Borat film, the country of Kazakhstan has embraced the character and his signature phrase, “Very nice”.
In 2006, the government banned the film and threatened to sue Baron Cohen for his depiction of the Kazakh people as anti-Semites who drink horse urine and treat women like property.
This time, the country’s tourism board has jumped on the publicity to release its own series of ads showcasing what it has to offer, set to locals exclaiming: “Very nice”.
This has pleased Baron Cohen no end.
“I was really happy about it actually, because the Kazakhstan that we created is obviously this mythical country that has nothing to do with the real Kazakhstan,” he said.
“I chose Kazakhstan because it was a country that no-one in America had really heard about.
“It allowed us to create this world that had a tinge of post-Soviet anarchy to it.
“It had nothing to do with the real world. So I was very glad that the real government embraced it.”