The return of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat Sagdiyev in Amazon’s Borat Subsequent Moviefilm was certainly well-timed. In the midst of a tumultuous election cycle that spurred baseless conspiracy theories as well as blatant racism, xenophobia, and ignorance, Borat returned to hold a mirror up to America and remind us all that this country is still depressingly full of indifference, misinformation, and hatred. Cohen’s efforts to reveal the ugliness that still permeates our culture was so fruitful that he and Amazon are now releasing the companion series Borat’s American Lockdown & Debunking Borat, featuring left over footage from the film as well as short, digestible videos debunking popular conspiracies that are displayed in the 2020 sequel.
The first portion, Borat’s American Lockdown, expands upon the portion of the film in which the COVID-19 shutdown forces Borat to room with conspiracy theorists Jim Russell and Jerry Holleman. A highlight within the original cut, Borat’s time with Jim and Jerry hilariously juxtaposes their bewilderment at Borat’s beliefs while they unwittingly spout their own baseless political claims. It was also interesting because it showed two American’s gracious and polite enough to invite a stranger into their homes, yet still so misguided and bigoted that they held racist views and a blinding personal hatred toward President Barack Obama. They also maintained a woeful misunderstanding of the pandemic.
American Lockdown features much of the original footage from this sequence blown outward just a bit, so it’s mainly inessential. The best parts from Borat’s time shacking up with Jim and Jerry made it into the film. However, Borat’s American Lockdown does delightfully parody reality-based programs that you can find on A&E and the History Channel, expertly inserting talking head segments, melodramatic narration, and a tense score to heighten the drama. For those that have not watched Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, this would be a wonderful way to experience the film in a shortened format. If you did see the film, you can likely skip these 40 minutes.
That being said, the subsequent bite-sized episodes that make up Debunking Borat are a fascinating watch and a worthy addendum to the movie. In six short episodes that run no longer than eight minutes, Jim and Jerry’s far-right conspiracy theories are debunked to their faces by leading experts. Ranging from the supposed microchips that are within the COVID-19 vaccine to widespread belief that the country’s top Democrats are a cabal of blood-drinking pedophiles, the top QAnon conspiracy theories are deflated quickly and easily.
What’s disturbing is how despite the clear evidence delivered from experts and scholars, Jim and Jerry mostly hold firm. It’s a small, yet sad example of why the United States is so divided and how far the political right has shifted away from reality under Trump. Debunking Borat reconfirms that is not changing anytime soon.
Amazon has more Borat footage that will be making its way to their platform. A majority of it will be material left on the cutting room floor, and perhaps it should have stayed there, but kudos should be given to Cohen and Amazon for trying their best to wake up some of the willfully ignorant. Based on the Amazon reviews on that site for Borat’s American Lockdown & Debunking Borat, they have a long way to go.