There is a moment that I will always treasure in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, and it may not be one that immediately springs to your mind. It’s not when Borat goes into an American religious community, nor is it when he wrestles his husky sidekick in the nude. Rather Sacha Baron Cohen, in his complete Borat regalia on the Upper West Side, squats over a sign that says “Trump International Hotel.” In recent years, the scene provides the occasional cackle, and apparently Baron Cohen is determined to do that again in long-form with his insistence on getting Borat 2 onto streaming before the U.S. election.
Indeed, once a highly secretive project that’s existence only became apparent after the movie was already shot and at least mostly edited, the Borat sequel is now finished and has a streaming release set-up for the end of next month. And it was through Deadline that Amazon Studios announced it had acquired the comedy sequel.
The film, which was shot with minimal crew, was filmed earlier this summer in a matter of weeks after COVID-19 restrictions on filming were loosened. According to the trade, Baron Cohen and the filmmakers travelled to various parts of the U.S. and abroad in order to have a film ready for release before November. Baron Cohen is even described as rushing the film to make sure it opens “before Election Day.”
The choice of Amazon Prime is also part of that calculation since the original movie was theatrically distributed by 20th Century Fox. This obviously would not be possible in 2020 considering we remain in the midst of a global pandemic that is keeping movie theaters largely closed across the U.S., as well due to Disney having acquired Fox—and possibly wanting to stay away from such button-pushing fare. So the film has gone to Amazon after it screened to potential buyers earlier this month, likely fueling the recent reports of its existence.
Baron Cohen is described as risking his life in the film and wearing a bulletproof vest on two different shooting days. We’ll allow it to fans to speculate what scenarios he found himself in to be in such danger.
Comedy sequels can always be a risk unto themselves. When it premiered in the summer of 2006, the original Borat took moviegoers and the industry by surprise, being a sleeper hit that earned $262.6 million on a budget of $18,000. The movie Baron Cohen an international star, though his mainstream efforts have never landed with as much universal praise as that first effort. His follow-up in Bruno was a similar conceit, with the actor playing a character who put Americans in awkward situations to reveal their worst thoughts, but perhaps it was a little too blunt in holding up its mirror.
Still, Baron Cohen has had success in other avenues in recent years, and in fact also stars in a major awards contender also premiering next month, Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7. So the performer returning to this character, and so urgently during the pandemic but before the election, raises a lot of intrigue about what was so vital that he needed to get it to streamers quarantining at home.