Saturday, April 22, 2006

Borat Gets An Ally With Influence

Sacha Baron Cohen has often run into a lot of trouble with his character Borat, a caricatured Kazakhstani who would regularly display outrageous bigotry, particularly towards women and Jews, and most often this trouble was encountered not by accident, but by design.

Extending the character from a series of set-ups and skits on his TV shows, Cohen set about making a Borat feature film - at first with Todd Phillips as director, then after Phillips bailed, Seinfeld alumni Larry Charles.

Apparently, Phillips ditched the project after bitter arguments with Cohen. Tattle-tales have it that the basis of the disagreement was "how far" Cohen should go in the stitch-up, fake documentary sections.

The film had been completely off-radar until incidents at a rodeo threatened to get out of hand and made international news. Many reports allege that Phillips received death threats after the event, though this doesn't appear to have been officially stated. Nonetheless, personally, I believe it might well be true.

More lately, officials in Kazakhstan had banned the Borat website in their country. Now a daughter of the country's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has spoken out about the banning.

"This Web site damaged our image much less than its closure which was covered by all global news agencies. We should not be afraid of humor and we shouldn't try to control everything, I think."

First daughter Dariga is herself an influential politician, and she was once charged with running the country's main national TV station, Khabar.

Somehow, I find it unlikely that Da Ali G Show will start a series of uncut airings on Khabar, but at least, maybe, the website will be reinstated, and Kazakhstan won't be denied some tasted of Cohen's admittedly biting, occasionally brilliant humour.

One of the writers of Borat: The Movie is Peter Baynham, who has previously been involved in various Alan Partridge shows, The Friday/Saturday/Election Night Armistice, Fist of Fun and The Chris Morris Radio Show. The movie may end up being a case of "Go for Borat, stay for Baynham."

Should Larry Charles not be lynched before the film is complete, expect to see Borat sometime later this year, early next year.

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