March 8, 2007
Sacha Baron Cohen saluted at Israel Film Festival
When Sacha Baron Cohen received an outstanding achievement award at the Israel Film Festival opening night gala on Tuesday (March 6) at the Beverly Hilton, Cohen explained that his famous alter ego, Borat, couldn't attend because, "he is receiving an award from the Hezbollah film festival."
The Hezbollah liked Borat's portrayal of Jews, he said, especially "Jews as shape-shifting wood lice."
In his satiric film, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" (out this week on DVD), Borat is terrified when he sees cockroaches at a bed and breakfast and thinks they are Jews.
The star-studded 22nd annual Israeli Film Festival honored Cohen, Amy Pascal and Israeli stage legend Gila Almagor, but it was Cohen's rare public appearance as himself that drew kudos from the crowd of 500 people, as well as from presenters such as, via telecast, Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Olmert (who said Borat was the most popular Purim costume in Israel) and the man who introduced him, Dustin Hoffman.
"If I get to do a movie with Sacha I'd get to know him a lot better," joked Hoffman, adding. "I don't do nude scenes, Sacha."
The two met a couple of years ago when Cohen crashed a Passover seder at Hoffman's house. Hoffman also told a Holocaust joke about two Jews about to be killed at a concentration camp, when one asks the firing squad if he could have a cigarette. "Shh," another Jew whispers, "Don't make trouble."
"Something tells me," Hoffman said, "Sacha will make trouble. And I, for one, don't want him to stop."
"This is really a fantastic honor," Cohen said. "It will go in the center of my mantelpiece -- behind my Golden Globe," he joked.
In all seriousness, Cohen said he had worried about how the Jews - particularly the Israelis -- would receive the film, which could be perceived as anti-Semitic. He called it a "testament to Israeli and Jewish humor."
"It's a great comment on our ability to laugh at ourselves," he said. Even though Borat couldn't attend, Cohen said Borat had a message for the audience, written in Khazakistan (which, as most of the audience already knew, was simply Hebrew):
"Lama atem notnim li et zeh? Mah Atem, meshugaim? Ani Ezrok et zeh l'pach. Cama P'amim Ani Tzarich lehagid et zeh? Ani lo ohev ethcem!"
Which in English means:
"Why are you giving this to me? What are you, crazy? I will throw this into the garbage! How many times do I have to tell you all that I don't like you?"
-- Amy Klein, Religion Editor