Sacha Baron Cohen Receives Outstanding Performer of the Year Award

Sacha Baron Cohen Receives Outstanding Performer of the Year Award title=
[Left to right] Interviewer Scott Feinberg, SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling, and Sacha Baron Cohen (courtesy image)
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By edhat staff

Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and Golden Globe-winning actor, Sacha Baron Cohen was awarded Outstanding Performer of the Year this week.

On Wednesday evening SBIFF paid tribute to Sacha Baron Cohen, and it was eye-opening! You may think you know him and his range if you’ve seen the two Borat films, or The Chicago 7, but he’s done so much more.

We learned how versatile he is through a clip montage of his work, and I can’t think of any other performer who is so versatile.  He’s been in musicals (Les Miserables, Sweeney Todd), comedies (Talledega Nights, The Dictator), and dramas (The Chicago 7, The Spy). And then there’s Borat, Bruno, Ali G, and the characters he created for Who is America?  With these creations, Cohen puts himself into situations that are at the very least hilarious, at the most extremely dangerous, and always very, very cringe-y. 

Back in 2006, Cohen came to SBIFF and did an interview after a screening of Borat. He was quite prickly and seemed uncomfortable. In the years since he has grown into his celebrity and is much more gracious about doing interviews and publicity. Although he’s likely repeated some of his stories multiple times, on Wednesday he told them again with charm and energy.

The interview covered his upbringing (he grew up in a Jewish household in London), education (he attended Cambridge University, and his history thesis explored the so-called Jewish/Black alliance), and how his family viewed his choice to become a performer (they wanted him to become a lawyer, but acknowledged his talent and supported him). He is a committed political activist and timed the release of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm to convince American voters to stand up to Trump and the extreme right. He also felt a strong connection to Abbie Hoffman, and stuck with The Chicago 7 project over its 13-year journey.

Interviewer Scott Feinberg had done his research and asked good questions, but he’s not the most creative or energetic interviewer.  Despite the flatness on his end, Sacha Baron Cohen delivered, and I for one was dazzled by his intelligence, creativity, and bravery.

You can still stream the conversation here.

The Outstanding Performers of the Year Award recognizes select individuals who have distinguished themselves with exceptional performances in film this past year. Past recipients of the award include Adam Driver, Rami Malek, Margot Robbie and Allison Janney, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, Brie Larson and Saoirse Ronan, Steve Carell, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence, Viola Davis, James Franco, Colin Firth, Penelope Cruz, Angelina Jolie, Helen Mirren, Heath Ledger, Kate Winslet and Charlize Theron.

The 36th Santa Barbara International Film Festival, presented by UGG, will take place March 31st through April 10th, 2021 online and at two free ocean-front drive-in theatres. More information, festival passes and tickets are available at www.sbiff.org.

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