‘Jagshemash,’ Borat likes you; Borat likes Varicam

Opening No. 1 at the box office and still playing strong in theaters, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” was shot in classic documentary style with Panasonic’s AJ-HDC27 VariCam HD Cinema cameras.

“Borat” has been named a Golden Globes’ nominee for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy) and the film’s star and creator Sacha Baron Cohen (HBO’s Ali G) is a Globes’ nominee for Best Actor. Baron Cohen was recently named Best Actor by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox, “Borat” was directed by Larry Charles and shot by co-directors of photography Anthony Hardwick and Luke Geissbühler.

Intrinsic to the success of the film is the credulity of Borat — a fictional Kazakhstani TV journalist on assignment to make a documentary in the United States — as he interviews subjects who are unaware that he is actually a character being played by Baron Cohen.

The moviemakers settled on the VariCam based on “the natural look” of test tape-to-film transfers. According to Hardwick, the test transfers looked “like really clean Super16mm blown-up” and “didn’t scream ‘video.’”

The movie took about five months to shoot in the United States and Romania, which stood in for Kazakhstan, from 2004 to 2006. The crew traveled as light as possible, taking only a handful of professional lights. The VariCam’s low-light performance kept the use of lights to a minimum.

According to DP Geissbühler, “shooting straight-ahead was key” to the movie. “The camerawork couldn’t upstage Sacha or his subjects.” The crew would try to predict how a scene would unfold, shoot documentary style and “with the two cameras, we’d get the coverage we needed,” he said.

For more information, visit www.panasonic.com/broadcast.