ByAngelo Delos Trinos, writer at
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Angelo Delos Trinos

Ten years ago, the satirical masterpiece known as Borat or Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan was released to both controversy and critical acclaim.

Sacha Baron Cohen's breakout role as the bumbling and politically incorrect Kazakh journalist, Borat Sagdiyev, was a master class in method acting and improv filled with moments of comedic genius.

Nevertheless, as loved (and hated) as the film has become, there’s much about it that remains unknown to both casual and hardcore fans alike. So, in honor of the mockumentary's tenth anniversary, here are eleven things you may not have known about Borat.

11. Borat Is Not A Kazakh

Above: Not actual Kazakh culture
Above: Not actual Kazakh culture

While this may come as no surprise given Cohen's actual English nationality, the character of Borat is more of an amalgamation of various cultures that are anything but Kazakh.

Despite stating that he was born and raised in Kazakhstan, Borat lives in a Romanian village, since Romania served as the movie's substitute for Kazakhstan. The language spoken by the supposedly Kazakh characters is in truth a mix of Armenian and Hebrew dialects. The Cyrillic writing used prominently is the Russian version, not the Kazakh calligraphy - also, whatever was written in Cyrillic was just gibberish. Finally, the movie's credits are written in Polish.

10. The Film Was Mostly Unscripted

Cinematic art
Cinematic art

Borat was shot in the style of a documentary, where the titular journalist would ask people some of the most offensive questions imaginable. This was done to let the unsuspecting participants lower their guards and as a result, film the most natural and honest reactions possible. So in the movie, when a person interviewed by Borat proudly talks about their intolerance, that's all real.

The unscripted nature of the film spared no one, including its main cast. Cohen himself did his best to never break character, despite the crazy things Borat did like spouting intolerant slurs, publicly masturbating in front of a mannequin and presenting his own feces at a formal dinner party.

Even during the infamous naked fight scene in the hotel between Borat and his producer Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian), Cohen attempted to signal the director with a wave to let him know he was having a hard time breathing, but the director promptly ignored this and kept filming, which gave us the the outrageous scene we know today.

9. People Still Mistake The Film's Fake National Anthem For The Real One

The end credits of Borat are accompanied by a musical parody of the Kazakh national anthem, which is loaded with nonsensical slogans about potassium instead of patriotic tributes to Kazakhstan's history and people.

The Borat anthem is a musical joke that perfectly sums up the insanity of the mockumentary, and yet people today still mistake it for Kazakhstan's anthem.

In fact, the parody was accidentally played during the Amir of Kuwait International Shooting Grand Prix in 2012 after someone in the production team mistook the parody for the real anthem. The Kazakh gold medalist, Mariya Dmitriyenko, held her composure and stood for the duration of the song, but her team voiced its displeasure over the mix up afterwards. The award ceremony was later restaged and recorded with the correct anthem playing.

8. Borat is Banned In Most Arab Nations And Russia

Above: Not a Kazakh village
Above: Not a Kazakh village

Because of the offensive nature of the film, Borat's was banned in multiple countries, including a majority of the nations in the Gulf region. Dubai Ministry of Information representative Yousuf Abdul Hamid described Borat as "vile, gross and extremely ridiculous," saying that the movie would only be 30 minutes long if it somehow made it to Dubai's cinemas. The only Arab nation to clear the movie was Lebanon.

Though Borat was not outright banned in Russia, officials recommended that people avoid seeing and distributing it due to its potential to offend people on an ethical and religious basis.

7. The Film Actually Has A Cult Following In Kazakhstan

Borat also loves Kazakhstan
Borat also loves Kazakhstan

While Borat may not have been winning any popularity contests in Russia, the film does has a large fan following in Kazakhstan despite being at the the target of many jokes in the movie.

In fact, a comedic tour guide for the country was published based on the film's infamous character.

As expected, the Kazakh government originally denounced the film, calling for it to be banned, but some local Kazakh officials and public figures -- including First Daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva -- actually liked the movie. They then called out their colleagues for lacking a sense of humor.

As time passed, the controversy surrounding Borat subsided and the movie gained a strong cult following in Kazakhstan. Some local officials have even thanked Borat for bringing Kazakhstan into the spotlight -- as well as strong DVD sales of the film in the country.

6. Borat Has A Sequel

Not everybody in Kazakhstan liked Borat, so local filmmakers made movies that were a response to Borat's scathing satirical depiction of their country. The most well-known one is My Brother, Borat, which was an unauthorized Borat sequel and a dark comedy that promoted everything positive about Kazakhstan.

However, My Brother, Borat, failed to achieve the success of its predecessor. This was mostly because the unofficial sequel lacked Borat's self-awareness and spoon-fed audiences positive propaganda about Kazakhstan instead. Fans of the original film felt My Brother, Borat was a defensive attempt to save face from people who simply didn't get the joke the first time around.

Nevertheless, My Brother, Borat does contain a scene where a donkey impregnates Borat's mentally challenged brother Bilo, so take from that what you will.

5. Borat Aided The Kazakh Tourism Industry

Despite Borat's merciless depiction of Kazakhstan, the movie actually helped the nation's tourism industry, giving it a boost in popularity.

In 2012 the number of visas issued to visitors increased by nearly tenfold and Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov even credited Borat as a valuable PR opportunity.

Before Borat, Kazakhstan was a little-known former Soviet territory in the Eastern European region, but after the release of the film the country became known throughout the world -- though maybe not for the most flattering reasons.

4. Borat Was The Target Of Many Lawsuits

Borat and the South Carolina Fraternity Brothers
Borat and the South Carolina Fraternity Brothers

Many people interviewed in the movie believed they were participating in a legit documentary made by a foreign journalist. However, when Borat hit cinemas and it was revealed for the joke it was, some of those featured in the film filed lawsuits against the filmmakers with accusations of public humiliation and invasion of privacy.

The Romanian village used in the movie's Kazakh scenes, the driving instructor from Borat's driving exam, and the fraternity brothers who proudly boasted about their demeaning views of women and minorities are just a few of those who made the long list of people who filed lawsuits against the makers of the film.

In the end, however, most of these cases were either dismissed or settled out of court.

3. Borat Was Expected To Flop

Image c/o Box Office Mojo
Image c/o Box Office Mojo

Due to Borat's content and the amount of controversy it attracted, the movie's distributor 20th Century Fox actually tried to sabotage its opening. Fox limited Borat's release to roughly 800 cinemas and was preparing itself for a massive flop that would only be remembered for its infamy.

Borat surprised its concerned producers with an impressive $26 million opening despite the low number of theaters screening the film. It eventually went on to become the highest-grossing mockumentary of all-time with an impressive lifetime gross of nearly $130 million.

2. Sacha Baron Cohen Is Nothing Like Borat

Sacha Baron Cohen
Sacha Baron Cohen

Borat may be an unethical journalist with strong sexist, anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic views, but in reality, the man who plays him is nothing like controversial character.

During an interview with BBC while promoting Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen broke character to explain that his alter-ego is actually a "tool" whose purpose is to point modern-day bigotry.

"I think part of the movie shows the absurdity of holding any form of racial prejudice, whether it's hatred of African-Americans or of Jews."

1. We Probably Won't See Borat Again

Part of Borat's success was the illusion of legitimacy the character had as a reporter, and the movie's popularity blew his journalistic cover. This led his creator, Cohen, to "kill him off."

Chances are, we won't be seeing an official Borat sequel any time soon, but Cohen credits the fictional Kazakh reporter for catapulting him from relative obscurity to international stardom. In a recent Facebook post, he even thanked his costar Ken Davitian's backside for helping make him the actor he is today.

"10 years today since Borat. When my costar, Ken Davitian, sat on top of my face, squeezing the oxygen from my lungs, I was faced with a choice - death, or to breathe in the air that been trapped in a small pocket between his buttocks for 30 years. If it was not for that rancid bubble, I would not have been here today."

Cohen has since had roles in several successful films including Les Miserables and Madagascar, but it's clear the soft spot he has for the character who jump-started his career is genuine. He recently brought the Borat out of retirement for appearance on Jimmy Kimmel to help promote his latest movie The Brothers Grimsby.

Perhaps the rumors of his death have been gloriously exaggerated.


What do you think of 'Borat' ten years after its opening day?


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