The Sacha Baron Cohen character unleashed on the world in 2006, the satirical journalist Borat, is back with a new movie out Friday on Amazon Prime.
Many in Washington state already witnessed his return. They just didn’t know it at the time.
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” is a surprise sequel shot largely in secret and featuring several locations in Washington.
One was spotted in the trailer by sharp-eyed viewers online, who identified it as the AAA Loans & Gun Shop in Lakewood. It is there where Cohen’s Borat meets a man who tells him about the need to quarantine. Cohen goes with the man to his house, where, he told The New York Times, he “lived in character for five days.”
“I was waking up, having breakfast, lunch, dinner, going to sleep as Borat when I lived in a house with these two conspiracy theorists,” he said. “You can’t have a moment out of character.”
There are scenes where Cohen sneaks into a Mike Pence speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and a fake interview with Rudy Giuliani which takes an alarming turn, ending in Giuliani calling the police.
What proves to be the most eyebrow-raising moment comes when Cohen disguises himself to attend a conservative rally in downtown Olympia. The rally called “March for Our Rights 3” took place at Heritage Park in June.
The event was a pro-gun rally put on by the Three Percenters group, which the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) considers “an anti-government extremist movement.” With about 500 attendees, speakers included anti-tax crusader Tim Eyman and Joey Gibson of Patriot Prayer, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has classified a hate group.
In the film, Cohen goes on stage to sing a song with lyrics including, “Obama, what we gonna do? Inject him with the Wuhan flu,” and “corona is a liberal hoax,” which he invites the audience to sing along to.
At the time, videos circulated on Twitter speculated it was Cohen in costume and that it was potentially for a new season of his show “Who Is America?” No one knew the event would be the climax of a new Borat film.
The film has more shots of the audience, some sporting QAnon logos, than the initial social media videos, which primarily focused on Cohen on stage. It captures some audience members joining in on the song, cheering and laughing, as well as one person in the crowd giving a Nazi salute. The segment ends with Cohen giving a quick farewell and getting off stage.
What the film doesn’t show is the aftermath. In an opinion piece for Time decrying “hate, lies and conspiracies,” Cohen said he feared for his safety after the audience eventually caught on to the joke.
“When organizers finally stormed the stage, I rushed to a nearby get-away vehicle. An angry crowd blocked our way and started pounding on the vehicle with their fists,” Cohen said in the piece. “Under my overalls, I was wearing a bulletproof vest, but it felt inadequate with some people outside toting semiautomatic weapons. 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.”
Yelm City Councilman James Blair attended the rally and later emailed The Olympian to explain his perspective on the aftermath of Cohen’s appearance and his personal Facebook post.
“I haven’t been contacted by anyone claiming to be associated directly with Cohen,” Blair said in his email. “However, in the last 12 hours my post has been distributed throughout many social media channels, with who knows what commentary. I’ve had hundreds of people calling me a racist, Nazi, and white supremacist, none of which has any ounce of truth.”
Cohen wasn’t alone in the stunt at the rally. He was there with another character of the film, his daughter Sandra Jessica Parker Sagdiyev, whose real identity is a mystery despite being credited as Irina Novak.
The scene in Olympia ends up being the most high-profile and complicated prank that Cohen pulls off in the film. Washingtonians and the world are able to see the state on screen as it released Friday on Amazon Prime.