Fans and critics have now had the weekend to digest Borat 2–aka Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan–and reactions have been mostly positive, with widespread praise being heaped on Maria Bakalova, the unexpected highlight of the movie. Bakalova, a virtually unknown actor, appears in the film as Tutar, Borat’s daughter. Everyone familiar with Sacha Baron Cohen’s work knows that he can commit to zany characters, even in the face of powerful, unsuspecting targets and real-life danger, but Bakalova’s ability to do the same, and with her surprisingly poignant character arc in the film, has been a revelation.
A scan of social media shows that many industry professionals and commentators are suggesting that Bakalova be considered for an Academy Award for her comedic performance. Not bad for a 24-year-old actress making her English language film debut. Bakalova got her start in her native Bulgaria with roles in films such as XIIa and Transgression, the latter of which netted her an award for best actress at Toronto’s AltFF Alternative Film Festival in 2018.
She’s also been seen in the critically acclaimed Italian TV series Gomorrah, which streams on HBO Max. That series also features Fargo Season 4‘s Salvatore Espositio. Bakalova landed her part in the Borat sequel by submitting a self-recorded audition tape after an open casting call.
“I sent another one and then I went to London, England a few times and we even started with real people in the first audition. It was crazy,” she told Good Morning America.
The practice comes in handy. In the film, Bakalova’s character Tutar follows Borat across America as he seeks to marry his daughter off to a member of Donald Trump’s administration. Longing for a cage to call her own, Tutar is a feral, yet strong-willed firecracker who over the course of the film dispels her father’s misogynist lies, gains autonomy over her body, and transforms into a Tomi Lahren-esque right-wing news personality.
In a moment from the film that has already gone viral, Tutar interviews Rudy Giuliani, which leads to an uncomfortably intimate moment. Thankfully, the encounter wasn’t too scarring for Bakalova.
“I always felt safe with our team, with our crew, with Sacha in my corner…I never felt that I’d be in danger…that’s why I’m lucky, because I had them,” she said on GMA.
Tutar is only supposed to be 15-years-old in the film, but in reality Bakalova is 24. The fact shouldn’t be surprising, as it would be difficult for a younger performer to convey the sense of confusion, anger, and ultimately joy over changing her father’s perspective that Bakalova delivers, as well as keep composure performing scenes like the “moon blood dance.” As the heart of the film, Bakalova is still out there promoting the performance, appearing in character recently on Jimmy Kimmel Live and in a stunt that saw her gaining access to the White House in September.
There’s no word on what the actress has planned next, but if there’s any justice, we’ll see her attending awards ceremonies early next year.
Many films attempt to introduce the progeny to a main character that could potentially carry the torch in future installments, known as a legacy sequel, but few create a character as deserving with a performer as talented as Bakalova. Hopefully we’ll see more of Tutar in the future. Either way, we suspect we’ll get more acquainted with Bakalova, regardless.