In one of the slyest — if inadvertent — DVD promos ever, Sacha Baron Cohen received a nod at the Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles on the day “Borat” hit shelves.
Baron Cohen, who shies away from appearing out of character, delighted the BevHilton crowd by reprising his Golden Globes riff with presenter Dustin Hoffman and channeling his Kazakh journo in Hebrew. Calling the award for achievement in film a “fantastic honor,” he told the aud that Borat could not be there because he did not want to be in a crowd of so many Jews.
He then proceeded to read a message from Borat, supposedly in Kazakh but really in Hebrew, telling them to stop bugging him and giving him awards.
Festival founder and exec director Meir Fenigstein was tickled by the reception given Baron Cohen and by the caliber of stars at Tuesday’s opening night dinner, the first in many years for the festival. Besides Baron Cohen and Hoffman, crowd included Sony’s Amy Pascal, recipient of the lifetime achievement kudos, and presenters Adam Sandler and Jeff Goldblum, plus emcee Larry Miller.
“This is the biggest event we ever did in 22 years,” Fenigstein said.
Although a “Borat” clip flashed an image of the DVD, a Fox homevideo rep said the company had little to do with Baron Cohen’s timely appearance at the event.
“It was a coincidence,” the rep said.
Baron Cohen admitted to the crowd that he was very worried about how the film would be received in Israel, telling the aud that he tried to talk his 92-year-old grandmother out of seeing it there, only to be gratified by her positive response.
Fellow honorees also showered praise on Baron Cohen, with Pascal saluting him for his subversive wit. And Hoffman, who first hosted him for a Passover seder during his “Ali G” days, noted that the comic’s very serious about what he’s doing.
“At the heart of his work, he’s not kidding around,” Hoffman said, recounting the messages he’s trying to convey. “And if it means sticking his head up somebody’s ass, he’ll do it.”
Event came the same day that the U.S. State Dept. accused the real Kazakhstan of a human-rights abuse by pulling the plug on a Web site devoted to “Borat.” The Kazakh government revoked Baron Cohen’s domain for the Web site on grounds that it was offensive.