[Editor’s note: This story contains major spoilers for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.”]
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” finds its fake Kazakh journalist (plus teen daughter) pranking Americans across the country, with shocking results that often lead them to reveal embarrassing or offensive beliefs. Despite the many unnerving surprises throughout the movie, however, much about this “Borat” entry is business as usual: star Sacha Baron Cohen has been building his cringe-inducing blend of documentary and performance art for two decades, ever since “Da Ali G Show” hit HBO. Once again, his antics have targeted a wide-range of real-life people and places.
Over the years, Baron Cohen and his filmmaking team have developed an intricate process to convincing subjects to appear on camera. In some cases, they believe they are participating in a conventional documentary with Borat at its center; in other cases, they don’t even realize they’re in a movie. Many of the people who appear throughout “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” seem to have fallen prey to some variation of these tactics.
This time, Borat has a companion for much of his journey: His 15-year-old daughter, Tutar (Bulgarian discovery Maria Bakalova), goes along with Borat as he plans to present her as a bribe (and a bride) to Mike Pence. That quest provides just enough juice for Baron Cohen and his co-star to wander across America, messing with everyone from a horny plastic surgeon to President Trump’s personal lawyer.
Much about the production of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is shrouded in mystery. The filmmakers declined to reveal any of the locations where they filmed. Though reports of some scenes trickled out in the media over the summer, many of its unsuspecting targets are just discovering that they appear in the movie. In the process of ranking the best stunts in “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” IndieWire has researched and contacted many of the people and places that appear in it.
Here’s our breakdown, which we encourage you to read only once you’ve experienced Borat and Tutar’s journey for yourself.
17. Borat Buys a Costume
When Borat first arrives in America, he faces an unsurprising real-life conundrum: People recognize him. A handful of shots show the fake newsman darting away from adoring fans in full-on Beatles-mode, at one point resorting to putting a paper bag over his head to avoid detection. Well, that won’t work, so Borat decides to buy some costumes. While visiting Halloween Highway in Greenville, South Carolina, Borat browses the store with an employee while looking for an appropriate costume, and comes across one for…Borat (it says “fake newsman,” probably due to rights issues, but the resemblance is clear enough).
While the actor doesn’t pull off any particularly memorable pranks here, it’s a fun establishing sequence that explains how Borat comes into possession of the outrageous outfits he puts on throughout the movie, including a Trump mask, an accompanying fat suit, and a hillbilly costume. Interviewed by the local Fox affiliate, Halloween Highway staffer Paul Holzberger said he had no idea Borat was a fictional character. “He was trying to disguise himself because was in trouble or something,” Holzberger said. “We was asking all these weird questions.” —EK
16. Borat Buys a Cage for Tutar
While the brunt of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” was shot around South Carolina, Baron Cohen and his team made sure to take full advantage of this great country and all that it has to offer, even traveling to the small city of Enumclaw, Washington (about an hour’s drive south of Seattle) so that Borat could find proper housing for his daughter. Appalled to find that Tutar has been stowed away in Johnny the Monkey’s crate (and eaten its contents), Borat reluctantly goes in search of a cage for her to stay in until she’s gifted to Mike Pence. That search ends at Bill’s Country Farm & Feed, where Borat tells an amiable salesman that he’s “preparing his daughter for market.” The salesman takes Borat and his daughter out back, where he shows them a black cage that seems built for a large dog. “How many girls you normally put in a cage this size?” asks the inquisitive customer, before high-fiving the hapless salesperson about Donald Trump’s affinity for caging Mexican children.
The sequence only grows more explicitly damning for its unwitting guest star when Borat goes inside to buy some propane. “How many gypsies could I finish with one canister?” he asks. “However many you got,” comes the reply. Nine-hundred dollars later, Bill’s Country Farm & Feed has earned itself another happy customer. IndieWire has reached out to the store for comment, but our calls have not been answered as of publication. —DE
15. Tutar Gets Dating Advice From an Instagram Influencer
Determined to transform his feral teenage daughter into a red-blooded American girl worthy of being gifted to Mike Pence as a sex slave, Borat takes Tutar to meet “one of America’s leading feminists,” a platinum blonde Instagram Influencer and self-described “sugar baby” named Macey Chanel. And Macey Chanel is nothing if not someone who knows who she is and what she wants, and she isn’t afraid to help other woman follow in her footsteps. When Tutar tells her that she’s looking for an older man who’s “nearly dead,” Chanel instructively responds that she needs to “find someone who just had a heart attack.” That deserves a high-five.
“As a woman,” Chanel goes on to explain, “you should be more submissive — you have to be kind of weak.” Tutar isn’t convinced. She proudly insists that she’s strong, and then demonstrates what she means by opening a bottle of beer with “her small hole” (however Bakalova accomplished this effect on-camera probably deserves its own article). Chanel is not impressed, and prompts Tutar to get a “ladylike” makeover if she wants men to like her.
IndieWire reached Chanel for comment through — of course— her Instagram account, and the social media star suggests that her involvement with the movie has been an unpleasant experience so far, despite the fact that she doesn’t incriminate herself like many of the other interviewees.
“This has been a super difficult time,” she said. Chanel told us that she believed the shoot was for an upcoming Netflix series, and that she’s unhappy with the scene because “I was misled into playing a role and being cast as someone that does not reflect who I am. I have enjoyed a successful modeling an acting career where I can play any role given. In this case and probably many others I did not read the ‘fine’ print. As well as lacking the resources to read every casting contract.” For Chanel, this seems to have been more of an acting gig than anything else, and she insists that she didn’t buy that Tutar was a real person: “Absolutely not,” she said. “She was another actress and was super talented, yet disgusting at the end.”—DE
14. Borat and Tutar Go Shopping
What’s a makeover sequence without a shopping trip? Channeling some seriously “Pretty Woman” vibes, Borat and Tutar go in search of a dazzling gown for the newly-freshened up Tutar. They end up at Michelle’s Formal Wear in Adel, Georgia, a local shop that, per its website, “specializes in apparel and accessories for prom, pageantry, bridal, and social occasions.”
The pair are serviced by Michelle herself – with Tutar reeling at the news that a woman can own a business – who can only chuckle when Borat asks to be shown the “no means yes section.” While Michelle’s seems to offer a wide variety of lovely selection of dresses, Tutar eventually emerges wearing the plastic bag one of the gowns was sheathed in. It’s a purely wacky moment in an otherwise bizarre sequence. When IndieWire phoned Michelle’s Formal Wear for comment, no one answered the phone. —KE
13. Borat Meets a Holocaust Survivor
At Borat’s lowest point, he intends to commit suicide by going to a synagogue and “wait for the next mass shooting.” Donning an absurdly over-the-top anti-Semitic disguise, he walks into Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta, Georgia, and meets elderly Judith Dim Evans. At that moment, Borat’s world has been rocked as he just learned “the Holocaust was nothing but a fairy tale” — because, of course, he’d just been on Facebook. In Borat’s version of Kazakhstan, we’re to believe the Holocaust is celebrated with glee. But Dim Evans tells him it really happened — and she was a survivor of it.
Dim Evans was born in 1932 in Beuthen, Germany, and remembered her whole life the experience she had as a six-year-old of Kristallnacht, before she was ultimately placed in a Catholic orphanage where her Jewish background was kept carefully hidden. She made it through until Polish troops took control of the surrounding territory in May 1945. Her mother, however, died in the Ravensbruck concentration camp. While those details aren’t in the movie, reports suggest that she may surface in bonus material telling her story.
The interview with Borat occurred on January 27, 2020; the filmmaking team allegedly notified the 87-year-old, and her friend who also appears in the interview, of the comedian’s true identity and that he was doing all of this to make a point about anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Dim Evans, however, died this past summer, and her family has not taken kindly to her appearance in the film, suing the “Borat” team in Georgia over the charge that Dim Evans was not aware it was a satire. —CB
12. Tutar Crashes a Gathering of Republican Women
After an eye-opening afternoon with her erstwhile babysitter, Tutar skips out on her planned plastic surgery and ends up crashing a gathering of the Hillsborough Republican Women’s Club at a local hotel. While most of the action up to this point as played out in South Carolina and Georgia, the only known Hillsborough club appears to be in Florida.
Precise location aside, what unfolds is one of the film’s wildest stunts, as a suddenly sexually liberated Tutar takes a moment to masturbate in the hotel’s bathroom, prompting her to then share her newfound adoration for sexual stimulation with an aghast group of older women. She may be stunned to realize her vagina does not actually contain teeth, but no one is more shocked than her rapt audience. At the time of publication, an email sent to the Florida club had not yet been returned. —KE
11. Borat and Tutar Buy an Anti-Semitic Cake for Mike Pence
Disguised in a denim tuxedo and on the hunt for a nice treat to package with his gift for Mike Pence, Borat takes a blonde-dyed to the Spartan Bakery in Spartanburg, South Carolina and asks the unabashedly Southern woman behind the counter for “a cake of prodigious size.” She’s all too happy to help, and doesn’t so much as flinch when Borat asks her to write “Jews will not replace us : )” on the moist chocolate mound in light blue icing (the smiley face is an extra flourish meant “to put [Premier Nazarbayev] in a good mood”). While horrifying to the extreme, the scene is also rather short, and — in a turn of events that could only make sense in a “Borat” movie — mostly used to set up the pro-life pregnancy clinic sequence that follows.
Spartan Bakery did not reply to a request for comment, but a report from local paper The Post and Courier suggests that the bakery owners signed a paid contract for their business to be included in the film, despite not being told the film’s title or subject matter. It is unclear whether that contract was signed before or after the scene was shot. —DE
10. Borat and Tutar Visit a Pro-Life Clinic
At the end of the bakery visit, Tutar’s father finally gives her a real treat: a cupcake topped with a small plastic baby doll. After eating the cupcake too fast and swallowing the “baby” in one go, the pair seeks out a doctor to remove the doll. Their eventual choice: the Spartanburg-located Carolina Pregnancy Center, a pro-life clinic run by pastor Jonathan Bright.
Through a series of only-in-a-Borat-film twists and turns, Bright comes to understand that Tutar is pregnant with a real baby, one fathered by her own father, as Borat claims he only wanted to give the girl “a treat.” The pastor’s response: the baby is a gift from God, and no one – not even a girl he thinks has been raped by her own father – has the right to take it out.
Neither the clinic nor Bright returned a request for comment issued by local South Carolina paper The Post and Courier early this month, and they similarly did not respond to queries from IndieWire. —KE
9. Borat Sends Faxes to Kazakhstan
Premier Nazarbayevdx (Dani Popescu) has only released Borat from prison to deliver a bribe to Mike Pence, and failure is not an option. Borat keeps the Kazakhstan leader abreast of his progress via fax, which he dictates to the owner of the PMS Center, a UPS store in suburban Atlanta. The store, its name (not a childish Baron Cohen invention, but an acronym for Printing, Mailing, and Shipping), and owner Alan Smith are real.
Smith plays a significant comic foil to Borat in a series of scenes where the remarkably patient owner takes Borat’s dictation (describing his absurd failures and escapades) and reads aloud Nazarbayevdx’s childish threatening responses. Smith, who maintains a straight-face and a calm Souther demeanor throughout the bizarre exchanges, did not immediately reply to IndieWire’s inquiry, but he spoke with Showbiz 411 after Smith’s friend informed him that he was in the film’s trailer.
“I did not know who they were when they were here,” said Smith. “They told me it was a training video for Russians, and that it would be shown on Public Television in either Georgia or Florida.” According to Smith, Baron Cohen and his team did all their filming in one 8am to 2pm stretch, and that he sent and received the faxes to and from a real Russian phone number. —CO
8. Borat Interrupts Mike Pence’s CPAC Speech
The first half of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” builds up to Mike Pence’s February 27 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, where Borat disguises himself as Donald Trump (after trying to blend in to the crowd at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center by dressing as a Klansman), slings Tutar over his shoulder like a Christmas ham, and tries to interrupt the Vice President’s stiff address about how Donald Trump will lead us safely through the COVID-19 crisis, give or take a few hundred thousand people.
Borat’s costume isn’t half-bad, and if not for the lack of secret service detail it’s possible that no one in the audience would have known that the screaming mutant bullfrog who thinks of his blonde daughter as a sex object wasn’t the real President of the United States. But the crowd catches on when Borat loudly starts offering Tutar to Pence, and they drown him out with a chant of “USA!” while Pence nods with the kind of condescending grin that he typically reserves for women.
But this was a special occasion — in fact, you might even remember hearing something about it on the news back when it happened, although it wasn’t until the trailer for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” was released several months and 215,000 lives later that we learned who was behind the spectacle. —DE
7. Borat and Tutar Go to the Plastic Surgeon
Once Borat discovers (via Page Six) Rudy Giuliani’s taste for “women with ample cheese-producing capacity,” he quickly escorts his “daughter” Tutar to a plastic surgeon. “I want her to attract top-level guy,” Borat tells Dallas, Texas-based doctor Dr. Charles Wallace, who suggests “refinement of the nose.” “What’s wrong with my nose? Do I look like a Jew?” Tutar asks. Then, Dr. Wallace and Borat share in impressions of what a Jewish nose looks like.
Wallace eventually suggests breasts implants for the teen. “I want a man who wants to sex attack me,” Tutar says. “I think that would be most men,” Wallace says, adding “if your father was not here” that he might make a “sex attack” with her. The total for the surgery comes to $21,751. Borat tries to negotiate the price by suggesting using potatoes instead of saline for the implants. A receptionist reached by phone at Wallace’s clinic this week said the office “had no idea” about the movie and declined to comment further. —RL
6. Borat and Tutar Attend a Cotillion Ball
As Borat and Tutar continue to bond over their shared exploits, the duo crashes a Macon, Georgia cotillion ball, where they pose as a father and daughter – “Professor Phillip Drummond the Third” and “Sandra Jessica Parker Drummond,” a college student focused on VCR repair – enjoying the classic Southern tradition of training up teenage girls to be lovely debutantes (with a generous dash of drunk fathers yammering about how “pretty girls” are “fun”).
The pair eventually breaks into a dance performance, during which Tutar exposes her “moonblood”-soaked undergarments for all to see in a bloody, raucous routine that leaves the mild-mannered guests reeling. In mid-October, “Inside Edition” reported on the prank, with one father explaining that they had been recruited for the gig, but were told it was part of a film about cotillion balls and that follows a European father-daughter pair as they make their way through the U.S. custom. (Bizarrely, the father also claimed that Bakalova’s character reveals she is not wearing undergarments during the dance, which is … not at all true.) —KE
5. Tutar Stays With an Older Woman
The most poignant figure in “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” Jeanise Jones is a kindly professional babysitter whom Borat hires to watch Tutar while he goes to raise the funds for her breast implant surgery. She’s quietly horrified that Borat asks her to use a ball and chain to restrain Tutar, and to feed her water in a dog bowl. She ends up talking Tutar out of getting surgery, saying, “I want you to be happy. Think about going to school. Use your brain, because your daddy is a liar,” prompting Tutar to pivot toward pursuing a career in journalism. Jones’ identity remains a mystery, as according to casting directors, all of the crew members signed an NDA. —RL
4. Borat Watches Porn at an Electronics Store
As Borat makes his first return to the United States from Kazakhstan since the last film, he has to quickly get acquainted with American conveniences. That includes purchasing a smart phone. Dressed in a shoulder-length wig, full beard, and cardigan, Borat walks into electronics store Computer Guys of Dallas — which is actually located in nearby Mesquite — to buy a cell phone. But of course, he can’t quite figure the latest technology out. During a tutorial offered by employee Brian, a hard-of-attention Borat instead proceeds to type his porn search terms (“spit roast cream-pie”) into the phone’s web browser, on full display and cast onto a big-screen monitor located inside the store. Then he heads to the bathroom to, er, do something else.
A recent Twitter thread featuring baffled employees at Computer Guys of Dallas confirmed that this is indeed the shooting location, with the shop’s phone number and branding clearly on display throughout the scene. —RL
3. Borat Quarantines with Jim and Jerry
The pandemic creeps into “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” We first hear it referenced by Vice President Pence at the CPAC rally, but Borat is completely blindsighted by the subsequent shutdowns. He’s wandering around Lakewood, Washington outside the AA Loan & Gun Shop when he bumps into an affable man named Jim Russell, who explains to the baffled foreigner that everyone’s staying home. Borat, estranged from his daughter and adrift, asks Jim if he can stay at his house, and somehow, the man agrees.
So begins one of the most daring feats of Baron Cohen’s career. According to an interview with Maureen Dowd in the New York Times, the comedian spent five days in quarantine with Russell and his roommate, Jerry Holleman, two Trump supporters and QAnon devotees who attempt to explain internet conspiracies to him. The pair appear to hunker down in a western Washington cabin, though IndieWire could not locate Russell and Holleman, while the AA Loan & Gun Shop did not respond to a request for comment.
Baron Cohen told Dowd that the experience was “the hardest thing I had to do,” and it easy to see why. Not only was he waking up and living in character at the height of the pandemic’s first wave, but he was also ingratiating himself to a pair of right-wing extremists whose devotion to disinformation is at the root of everything abhorred by Baron Cohen. They even helped him compose “The Wuhan Flu,” the racist song he would sing at a pro-gun rally days later, and the credits include them as songwriters. (Does this mean that Russell and Holleman were eventually clued into the production? The filmmakers aren’t saying.)
And in the middle of all that, Baron Cohen was enlisting the hapless characters to help him out with one of the movie’s biggest set pieces, which is the subject of the next entry on this list. —EK
2. Borat and Tutar Crash “March for Our Rights 3”
When Borat discovers that Tutar has launched her own career as a journalist, he also discovers that she will be appearing at “March for Our Rights 3,” a pro-gun rally organized by the extremist group known as the Three Percenters (which has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center). Disguised as a hillbilly musician, Borat performs a series of offensive call-and-response songs while the crowd sings along (“Obama/What you gonna do/Inject him with the Wuhan flu”). In the meantime, he combs the crowd for Tutar, then points her out to Jim and Jerry, who dutifully approach her to let her father know how badly he wants her to complete her duty and become Giuliani’s wife. She obliges.
Over the summer, the full extent of the chaos surrounding Baron Cohen’s appearance at the rally made national headlines. The event, which took place at Heritage Park in Olympia, Washington in June, was attended by roughly 500 people an included a range of alt-right speakers. One of the militia group’s co-founders, Matt Marshall, said at the time that Baron Cohen infiltrated the event under the guise of a company called Back to Work USA, which offered to bring music to the event and cover some of the costs.
Needless to say, the crowd eventually turned on Baron Cohen, who fled with his security detail in a getaway car. In a recent article for Time magazine, the comedian said even though he was wearing a bulletproof vest, “it felt inadequate with some people outside toting semiautomatic weapons.” He added, “When someone ripped open the door to drag me out, I used my entire body weight to pull the door back shut until our vehicle maneuvered free.” Footage that surfaced on social media later in the day revealed that Baron Cohen actually returned to the event under the guise of a photojournalist, though that material did not make it into the film. —EK
1. Tutar Interviews Rudy Giuliani
Already destined to be the film’s most iconic and enduring sequence, the last act of the film sees Tutar (posing as a journalist for a non-existent right wing news outfit) interviewing Rudy Giuliani in a Manhattan hotel room. During the course of their interview, which is set up in a hotel suite’s living room with a full camera and lighting rig (that is to say, like a professional taped interview), Giuliani is particularly handsy with the actress, even when Baron Cohen appears as a sound tech.
Bakalova and Giuliani conclude the interview and move into the suite’s bedroom specifically to keep drinking. Giuliani tells the young “journalist” she can “give him her phone number and address,” while continuing touching her and eventually laying down on the bed while Bakalova appears to be removing a mic from his person. Soon after, Giuliani is seen reaching into his unbuttoned pants, tucking in his shirt for an extended period of time, and staying prone on the bed while Bakalova stands over him. That’s when Baron Cohen comes crashing back in, seemingly saving his young co-star from further physical contact with Giuliani, who jumps up and screams at Baron Cohen.
Guiliani attempted to discredit the prank back in July, when it was filmed at the Mark Hotel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and has already come out deriding it as a “hit job” for his anti-Hunter Biden campaign, which kicked off months after Baron Cohen filmed the scene. —KE
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is now streaming on Amazon Prime.