Although Sacha Baron Cohen’s character Borat takes strident and frequent swipes at bigoted thinking of all types—misogyny, homophobia, and more—Baron Cohen frequently reserves Borat’s broadest, most aggressive attacks for anti-Semitism, exposing its regressive idiocy when and wherever he can. That attack on bigotry is firmly in line with Baron Cohen’s own beliefs, something he’s stated both in-character and out, including in a recent Time editorial where he expressed his contempt for Facebook’s only-recently changed decision to ban Holocaust denial groups from its servers.
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Baron Cohen’s new Amazon film, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, is expected to traffic in all those same topics. But now the film is facing opposition from the estate of one of its interview subjects: Holocaust survivor Judith Dim Evans, whose estate is claiming that Baron Cohen interviewed her (as Borat) under false pretenses, and that “Upon learning after giving the interview that the movie was actually a comedy intended to mock the Holocaust and Jewish culture, Ms. Evans was horrified and upset.”
What’s most interesting about the case (although maybe not to Amazon, which is now dealing with a legal attempt to block the movie’s October 23 release) is that Baron Cohen appears to have gone out of his way to try to treat Evans—a noted college professor and speaker whose role in the movie, reportedly, is to highlight Borat’s anti-Semitic bigotry by recounting her experiences during the Holocaust to his face—with uncharacteristic respect. Per The Wrap, footage apparently exists of Evans being told, after the interview, that Borat was a character, and that the entire point of the film is to mock anti-Semitism. (Baron Cohen normally never informs his subjects that they’ve been tricked.) The film is also apparently dedicated to Evans, who died not long after the interview.
Evans’ estate has filed a complaint against both Amazon and production company Oak Springs Productions in the state of Georgia. Lawyers for the estate have also filed a temporary restraining order against the movie, hoping to delay its release. Neither Amazon, nor Baron Cohen, have commented publicly about the suit.