BORAT

BORAT

“Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” (2006) is an 84-minute-long comedic film starring London-based Jewish comedian Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat Sagdiyev, a television news reporter from Kazakhstan. In the film, directed by Larry Charles, Borat is dispatched to the United States to report on the greatest country in the world. With a documentary crew in tow, Borat becomes more interested in locating and marrying Pamela Anderson. The screenplay is by Baron Cohen and Anthony Hines. [Source: IMDb ++]

Richard Orange and Anita Singh wrote in The Telegraph, “The spoof Kazakh television reporter proudly listed the national pastimes as “disco dancing, archery, rape and table tennis” and depicted his homeland as a primitive backwater where women pull carts, homosexuals are forced to wear blue hats and “Throw the Jew Down the Well” is a much-loved folk tune. [Source: Richard Orange and Anita Singh, The Telegraph, December 8, 2010]

Many Kazakhs were not been amused. Baron Cohen was better known before the film for the character Ali G, star of "Da Ali G Show," a television comedy in Britain and the United States. In the film, Baron Cohen duped various Americans who believed they were meeting a genuine journalist. As CNN went through pains to point out: “Borat Sagdiyev is a fictional character, created by English comic actor Sacha Baron Cohen, the man who brought us the equally inept and offensive Ali G. While cinema audiences have been guffawing at the movie "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," Kazakh official have been considerably less amused by Baron Cohen's portrayal of their country as a hotbed of racist, anti-Semitic mysogynism or... his father Boltok the Rapist, his pet pig Igor or his sister Natalya, Kazakhstan's fourth most popular prostitute.” [Source: CNN, October 31, 2006]

“Borat: Cultural Leanings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” was a huge hit at the box office in 2006. Filming Locations: California, various locations around the U.S., Romania. Budget: $18 million (estimated); Opening Weekend: £6,242,344 (UK) (3 November 2006); Gross: $128,505,958 (USA) (23 March 2007). The film broke Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)'s record for the biggest box office opening weekend ever for any film that opened in fewer than a thousand theaters. ++

Basic Story and Plot of Borat: Borat Sagdiyev is a TV reporter of a popular show in Kazakhstan as Kazakhstan's sixth most famous man and a leading journalist. He is sent from his home to America by his government to make a documentary about American society and culture. Borat takes a course in New York City to understand American humor. While watching Baywatch on TV, Borat discovers how beautiful their women are in the form of C. J. Parker, who was played by actress Pamela Anderson who hails from Malibu, California. He decides to go on a cross-country road trip to California in a quest to make her his wife and take her back to his country. On his journey Borat and his producer encounter a country full of strange and wonderful Americans, real people in real chaotic situations with hysterical consequences. [Source: Anthony Pereyra IMDb]

Goofs: When in the TV station, Borat doesn't understand the lapel microphone, yet in the opening scenes, before he leaves for the US, while he is "narrating" he is clearly wearing a lapel microphone. Quotes: Borat: Jak sie masz? My name-a Borat. I like you. I like sex. Is nice! ["How are you?" in Polish] Frequently Asked Questions: Q: Who is Borat's son? Q: Was Pamela Anderson acting or was she one of Borat's unsuspecting victims? Q: How much of this film is scripted, how much is unscripted? ++

Kazakhstan Versus Borat, Before the Film

Kazakhs were not amused by Borat even before the film came out. Baron Cohen, in character as Borat, made a number of appearances on television and at events in which disparaging things were said or implied about Kazakhstan. Among the things Borat said were that Kazakhs drink fermented horse urine, shoot dogs for fun, keep their wives in cages, and consider rape and incest fun activities. At that time Baron Cohen and Borat were unknown to most Kazakhs. His statement seem to have particularly riled the family of Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev. After Borat (Baron Cohen) poked fun of Nazarbayev at the MTV Europe awards, which he hosted, the Kazakhstan government threatened to sue and issued the statement saying “We do not rule out that Mr. Baron Cohen is serving someone’s political order designed to present Kazakhstan and its people in a derogatory way.” [Source: Doreen Carvajal, International Herald Tribune, December 15, 2005]

Responding the criticism, Borat (Baron Cohen) said in his website www.borat.kz : "Kazakhstan is as civilized as any other country in the world!...Since 2003 reforms. Kazakhstan is as civilized as any country in the world. Women can now travel inside a bus, homosexuals no longer have o wear blue hats and the age of consent has been raised to eight years old....Its like to state, I have no connection with Mr. Baron Cohen and full support my government’s position to sue this Jew.”

The government responded by banning his website and Kazakhstan in turn was criticized by an international media watchdog for closing down the website and banning it from using the “.kz” domain. The Paris-based Reporters Without Frontiers express concern about “the politicization of the administration of domain names.” The Kazakhstan government was so outraged it hired two Western PR firms and took out a four page advertisement in the New York Times to debunk the Borat myths.

Doreen Carvajal wrote in the International Herald Tribune, “The clash between Baron Cohen and the Kazakh authorities began when Baron Cohen decided to spoof a real country with a coarse character whose passions run from table tennis to shooting dogs and chasing gypsies. Baron Cohen riled Kazakh government officials last month when he was host of the MTV Europe awards in Lisbon. He was accompanied by a rumpled group of low-kicking performers, who milled below a giant sign: "Official Kazakhstan Government Dancers." By the time the show ended, he had introduced a one-eyed, drunken Kazakh pilot, insulted Uzbekistan and showered Madonna with effusive praise: "That singer before me. Who was it? It was very courageous of MTV to start the show with a genuine transvestite. He was very convincing." But they were not laughing in Kazakhstan; and in the weeks after the show, the government appeared to be considering legal options. Later, though, a Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman, Yerzhan Ashikbayev, said his country was not planning any lawsuits. [Source: Doreen Carvajal, International Herald Tribune, December 15, 2005]

Kazakhstan Government Closes Borat Website

In 2005, Doreen Carvajal wrote in the International Herald Tribune, “The grainy image of Borat - posed in his trademark dark curls, below a Kazakh flag and dueling pistols - has vanished along with the Web site, shut down this week by the Kazakh authorities, who were not joking. For almost a year, government officials have been grumbling about Borat, the loutish anti-ambassador of Kazakhstan who is a master of fractured English and likes to expose prejudice by showing how easy it is to encourage a crowd in a bar to sing a chorus of "Throw the Jew down the well so my country can be free!" [Source: Doreen Carvajal, International Herald Tribune, December 15, 2005 |::|]

“In the latest skirmish, Borat's official home page, www.borat.kz, was closed by the Association of IT Companies of Kazakhstan. It issued orders to KazNIC, which presides over registration of the country's domain name. "This is a political matter," said KazNIC's managing director, Alexander Bolshakov, who insisted that he did not know who made the decision. However, a document obtained by the International Herald Tribune indicated that the association received two complaints in December from the government and the security service for Kazakhstan's president, which accused the borat.kz Web site of besmirching the "international image of Kazakhstan." They also asserted that the Web page had been registered by a nonresident of the country with the aims of "unconscientious usage." |::|

Ashikbayev, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said, "What we are concerned about is that the public that is interested in Mr. Baron Cohen's jokes are youngsters, people from 12 to 30 years old. Baron Cohen comes up with these ridiculous jokes that some people may take for truth." Baron Cohen declined to comment through his agent, Matthew Labov. ...Borat's old site, www.borat.kz, has reappeared with a new domain name, www.borat.tv... Labov said he suspected that the old site had apparently been "shut down by the Ministry of Justice in Kazakhstan." Ashikbayev denied that the government had blocked the site. "So many jokes," he said. "I can't even comment on that. Where did you get that from?" Kazakhstan, Ashikbayev insisted, has more important issues to deal with.” |::|

Complaints Against Pre-Film Borat

Doreen Carvajal wrote in the International Herald Tribune, “ Three complaints were filed about the MTV show with Ofcom, an independent broadcasting regulator in Britain. "We are now looking into those," said an Ofcom spokeswoman, Kate Lee, who added that the names of complainants were confidential. Last year, Ofcom reviewed six complaints about the Borat TV episode that featured the "Throw the Jew down the well" song. Ultimately, Ofcom decided that the show did not violate television standards in a ruling that said, "When such hard-edged comedy is concerned, it is very difficult to censure a characterization if its purpose is to use the very attitudes which it intends to mock." [Source: Doreen Carvajal, International Herald Tribune, December 15, 2005 |::|]

“Baron Cohen has also aroused the ire of the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization in the United States. It acknowledged that Baron Cohen, who is Jewish, intended to be ironic to demonstrate how easy it is to encourage people to join in racist or anti-Semitic behavior. But they feared that this intent was probably lost on many home viewers. |::|

“In the meantime, Kazakh officials have invited Borat to visit to his would-be home. Mazur, who could not be reached for comment, has told others that the production group did consider going to Kazakhstan. But technical problems prevented such a visit, Mazur said in an interview with the unofficial fan Web site, Borat Online. Instead, the group went to Romania to create Borat's mythical home village. "We were all set to go to Kazakhstan," Mazur said, "but we found that the people from Kazakhstan looked nothing like Borat.” |::|

Borat’s Kazakhstan Versus Real Kazakhstan

Borat's Kazakhstan bears little resemblance to the real Kazakhstan, Borat and Kazakhs are depicted more like ignorant east Europeans — say Albanians when Albania was like North Korea in the 1980s — than Kazakhs, a traditionally nomadic people with more in common with Mongolians and Asians than former Eastern Bloc Communists. The Kazakhstan scenes were shot in Romania. But there are a few truths and half truths hidden among the exaggerations, pranks and lies.

Eric Weiner wrote in Slate, “Here is a rundown of the many things Borat gets wrong about Kazakhstan, and the few things that he gets right....Let's start with the man himself. Borat is not a Kazakh name (though there is a name Bolat). No one in Kazakhstan greets you with "Jagzhemash," which is most likely gibberish or mangled Polish. The official language in Kazakhstan is, not surprisingly, Kazakh, although Russian is widely spoken. Among the country's large ethnic Russian population, Russian is the only language they speak. And, oh yes, khrum is not the word for testicles, in either Russian or Kazakh. [Source: Eric Weiner, Slate, November 3, 2006 /=\]

“Appearance: Ethnic Kazakhs are related to the Mongols, and are direct descendants of the most famous Mongol, Genghis Khan. Kazakhs look Asian. Those in Borat's home village, however, look as if they are Eastern European. This can probably be explained by the fact that they are Eastern European. The opening scene was filmed in a village in Romania, not Kazakhstan. /=\

“Anti-Semitism: Borat is a raving anti-Semite, fond of such Kazakh traditions as "The Running of the Jew." This is the characterization that most rankles the Kazakhs, and for good reason. When it comes to religion, Kazakhstan, a majority Muslim nation, is remarkably open and tolerant. Kazakhstan has several synagogues and diplomatic relations with Israel. Here's what the National Conference on Soviet Jewry has to say about the country: “Anti-Semitism is not prevalent in Kazakhstan and rare incidents are reported in the press. None have been reported in the last two years.: And, for the record, there is no such event as "The Running of the Jew" in Kazakhstan. /=\

“Prostitution: In Borat's Kazakhstan, nearly every woman is for sale. Borat's own sister was voted "number four prostitute in all of Kazakhstan," a fact of which he is evidently proud. Borat's portrayal is, of course, wildly exaggerated, but prostitution is a real problem there. In the 1990s, Kazakhstan was a big exporter of prostitutes, and human trafficking was a problem. Now, given wealth amassed from the oil boom, prostitutes are even more popular, and the country is importing them, as well. Every evening, one street in Almaty is packed with prostitutes looking for customers, and newspapers devote pages of classified ads to "massage girls." /=\

“Women's Rights: Borat portrays a country where women cannot vote or drive and are treated like property. In the real Kazakhstan, women, unlike horses, do vote and drive. They also run ministries and corporations, though they enjoy less equality than women in, say, Sweden. Sports: In Borat's Kazakhstan, popular sports include cow punching and "shurik, where we take dogs, shoot them in a field and then have a party." In reality, Kazakhs, like most of the world, prefer soccer. But they also like horsemanship, wrestling, and, occasionally, buzkashi (literally "grabbing the dead goat"). In this popular game (a precursor to polo), players on horseback try to control the "ball"—the headless carcass of a goat or sheep. Then they have a party.

“Food and Beverages: Borat claims that traditional Kazakh wine is made from fermented horse urine. I have tried Kazakh wine, and I can tell you it is definitely not made from fermented horse urine. It just tastes that way. However, Kazakhs, a nomadic people, do have a fondness for horse products. A popular dish is kazy, or smoked horsemeat sausage. Kazakhs like to drink kumyss, fermented mare's milk, which can supposedly cure anything from a cold to tuberculosis. In the country's vast steppes, people also drink shubat, fermented camel's milk. My Lonely Planet guide finds the camel's milk "less salty," but most Westerners find both drinks—how you say?—disgusting. They have the same reaction to mypalau, which is made from sheep's brain and served, eyeballs and all, to "honored" guests. /=\

“Relations With Its Neighbors: Borat takes several jabs at "assholes Uzbekistan." At one point in the film, he refers to Uzbeks as "nosy people with a bone in the middle of their brains." Disparaging comments aside, Borat is right that many Kazakhs dislike the Uzbeks, and the two nations have squabbled over territory in the past. Economy: Borat, in an interview with the Guardian newspaper, claimed that Kazakhstan's major exports are potassium, apples, and young boys to Michael Jackson's ranch. Not true. At least about the potassium and Michael Jackson. Kazakh apples are famous, and, in fact, the name of the country's commercial capital, Almaty, literally means "place with apples." Kazakhstan's main export, accounting for about half of all foreign earnings, is oil. The Tengiz oil field is one of the largest in the world.” /=\

“So, what is an obscure Central Asian nation to do when faced with a satirical onslaught, not to mention a worldwide publicity campaign? At first, Kazakh officials responded the old-fashioned, Soviet way: with paranoia and thinly veiled threats, shutting down Borat's Kazakh Web site and intimating that lawyers would call. Lately, though, they've taken a more measured approach, taking out pricey ads, touting the nation as an attractive investment and a land of religious tolerance. And in the there-is-no-thing-as-bad-publicity department, a Kazakh travel company has started running tours called "Jagzhemash!!! See the Real Kazakhstan." /=\

In Defense of the Borat Film

Patrick Barkham wrote in The Guardian, “After the film was released, Baron Cohen confirmed, as every cinema-goer had already realised, that of course the joke was not actually on Kazakhstan, but on those whom he had set up during the course of the film. Borat, he said, was a tool for exposing racism and anti-semitism.” [Source: Patrick Barkham, The Guardian, November 24, 2006]

Boba Fett wrote in IMDb: “ The movie doesn't make fun of Kazahkstan, it makes fun of Americans, in a criticizing way. Kazahkstan is merely used as a platform to show the (of course exaggerated) contrasts between the advanced and 'civilized' America and the simplistic Kazakhstan and how a simplistic man, from such a simplistic place, such as Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) is capable of pinching right through the advanced and civilized Americans and puts his finger right on the spot. The movie is about Borat learning from America and Americans. for the benefits of his country Kazakhstan but the question raises; Shouldn't America and Americans also learn from simplistic countries such as Kazakhstan, for their own good and benefits? [Source: Boba Fett, Groningen, The Netherlands, IMDb ++]

“Just like in Michael Moore movies often is the case, Borat knows to put his finger on the right place and manages to show America how it really is. An uptight, patriotic, homophobic, God fearing, anti-social country, in which minorities still have a hard time and not all rights are considered equal to some. It's funny, in the interviews it often is not Borat who says the most offensive things, it are the interviewees who do so, such as the rodeo-guy and the frat boys...But no, the movie is not all criticism. For most part it's just a fun and often also hilarious people about making fun of ignorant people. ++

“In all honesty it's hard to tell how much of the movie was actually improvised and how much of it was real. Obviously some sequences were scripted such as all the scene's in Kazakhstan and some other sequences will make you really doubt. Some of obviously planned the camera-positions are often too coincidental and also the fact that the movie had an actual professional director attached to it, makes you really wonder. It also is hard to imaging that all those people actually took this silly talking and looking character so seriously as they did in this movie all the time. When a person who wears his underwear above his pants and is talking slang is entering your hotel with a camera-crew following him, wouldn't you crack up, realizing that this just can't be for real? The movie is also edited in such a way that the emotions and reactions get exaggerated. It's also are the reasons why you can't really call this movie a fake documentary or mockumentary. ++

“What I loved about the "Da Ali G Show", in which Borat often made an appearance, was that it was improvised, real, often had no point and was all about the responses of the other person on the Sacha Baron Cohen characters. It was fun to see the peoples reactions and how they did respond to the character and its outrageous and often also offensive questions. This movie is overwritten in my opinion. The movie has a main plot line in in, in which Borat falls for non other than Pamela Anderson and makes it his personal mission to find her and marry her. In my opinion the improvising way of traveling through the USA and meeting and interviewing people would had worked way better, in both terms of criticism and humor. Now some parts in the movie feel planned and acted, which is definitely not Borat's strongest point. It also again raises the question of how much of the movie is actually improvised and how much of it was planned, though I definitely believe that most of the interviews and Borat with other people were for real. Ironic, since it was the screenplay that was actually being nominated for an Academy Award. ++

“But all this criticism aside, this is a very fun and also often hilarious movie to watch. Some of the situations Borat gets himself into are priceless and the reactions from the ignorant persons are even more hilarious. They often don't know how to cope with this odd talking and looking character from the far away and insignificant country of Kazakhstan. There are a couple of especially memorable sequences, such as when Borat and Azamat wrestle naked in their hotel room, after Azamat's 'hand-feast' and then start running naked through the hotel, elevators and eventually ending up wrestling naked in a convention room with hundreds of people in it. There are a couple of more hilarious and memorable sequences but no one really matches up to that moment, that totally catches you completely off guard. It's all fast paced, which makes sure that you'll probably laugh your way non-stop trough this movie. A perfectly fun and amusing movie that also has some striking criticism, that could had used some less story and perhaps should had been more like the show. ++

How Participants in Borat Were Duped

Patrick Barkham wrote in The Guardian, “Putative lawsuits that have emerged so far have thrown new light on the extraordinary methods used by Baron Cohen's production company to fool members of the public (while, the company hoped, evading costly legal claims). In the case of the Romanian village persuaded to take the place of Borat's Kazakh home in the film, the small sums of money allegedly paid - when compared to the amount of humiliation undergone - have led to accusations of exploitation.” Baron Cohen's sting was similar for most of his US targets. The subject would be cold-called by representatives of a front company, usually called One America Productions. Linda Stein, for example, an artist and feminist baited by Borat in the film, had a pre-interview with a woman with the false name of Chelsea Barnard. Because the Kazakhstan angle would be familiar to those watching Ali G and Borat's adventures on US cable channel HBO, Baron Cohen's people usually claimed to be working with a Belarus TV station. [Source: Patrick Barkham, The Guardian, November 24, 2006 <*>]

“Stein searched for One America on the internet and found nothing. Fearing it could be a cover for an extreme right group, she interrogated Barnard, who told her funding for the "documentary" came from Belarus Television. Baron Cohen was shielded from Stein, and others, until the last minute, presumably to give people less time to see through his act. <*>

“The unwitting stars of Borat were offered modest sums, from $150 to $400 for their time. And, just as the crew were setting up the shoot, the victims would be handed consent or release forms, in complex legalese. Media lawyers who have looked at the forms say they are unusually long, with some unique clauses. But the victims invariably signed them without even looking at them properly. <*>

“In one such form, published by Slate magazine, the project is described as "a documentary-style film" that the producer "hopes to reach a young adult audience using entertaining content and formats". Clause four states that the participant waives the right to bring any claims against the producer. At first, its subclauses include standard terms such as "damages caused by 'acts of God'". Then they go further, demanding that the subject agrees not to bring any claims over "false light (such as any allegedly false or misleading portrayal of the Participant)" and "fraud (such as any alleged deception or surprise about the Film or this consent agreement)". Stein admits she barely read the form but she questions its validity given that hers was signed by Chelsea Barnard - a made-up name. And, as she wrote in Manhattan's Downtown Express, "While I'm no legal expert, I can't believe that you can agree to be defrauded." <*>

People Humliated by Borat

Among the people made fools of Borat, according to The Guardian were: “Linda Stein Artist and feminist In the film Borat goads her into storming off by telling her that women must walk behind men in his country and asking how he can contact Pamela Anderson. Stein boots Borat out. She now says "He was very, very clever in the way he warmed up to his outrageous behaviour. At no point did I feel that there was an actor in the room." Action "I'm keeping my options open," she says. "Sacha Baron Cohen should buy one of my sculptures. He owes me one." [Source: Patrick Barkham, The Guardian, November 24, 2006 <*>]

“Dharma Arthur TV producer: In the film Borat appears on the lunchtime news show on the WAPT network in Jackson, Mississippi. Anchorman Brad McMullan gamely struggles to rein in Borat, who then interrupts a live weather forecast, causing the weatherman to laugh hysterically. Arthur was the producer. She now says "Because of him, my boss lost faith in my abilities and second-guessed everything I did thereafter," she wrote in Newsweek. "I spiralled into depression, and before I could recover, I was released from my contract early. It took me three months to find another job ... How upsetting that a man who leaves so much harm in his path is lauded as a comedic genius." Action None so far. <*>

Bobby Rowe Rodeo manager, Tennessee: In the film Rowe is filmed venting prejudice against homosexuals and Muslims. Borat addresses the rodeo crowd, offering support for George Bush's "War of Terror". His calls for Iraq to be bombed "so only the lizards survive" are cheered; his rendition of the Kazakh national anthem to the tune of the Star-Spangled Banner is booed. He now says "I got out there [when Borat sang the anthem]," Rowe told Newsweek, "and I say, 'Get the hell outta this dadgum building! Half the sumbucks in there are probably packin' heat, and they'll put you in front of the firing squad.' Boy, they got in their trucks and hauled boogie." Action None. <*>

Patrick Haggerty Public speaking and humour coach In the film In a tutorial on American humour, Borat talks about his "retard" brother and tells a few popular Kazakh jokes, such as the one about having sex with your mother-in-law. He now says "I think he's a comic genius. About 15 or 20 minutes into the filming I really started to smell a rat. I went up to the director and I said 'Why don't you let me in on the gag? I know there's a gag'. He said 'No, no, no, no, you misunderstand. You're doing fine. This guy needs your help'." Action As a humour coach, Haggerty probably cannot afford to have a sense of humour failure over his appearance in Borat. <*>

Joe Behar Bed and breakfast owner In the film Borat is shown throwing money at computer-generated cockroaches in the bedroom, saying they are the Jewish couple who have changed shapes and become insects. He now says "The director said I was a good actor. If they want to be equitable about it, though, I think they should compensate everyone involved in a more decent way." Action None.

Sally Speaker Guest at Magnolia Springs Manor in Helena, Alabama: In the film Borat asks Presbyterian minister Cary Speaker whether another guest is his wife. Mr Speaker replies: "No, that is my wife", pointing at Sally. Borat says: "In my country they would go crazy for these two," pointing at the hostess Cindy Streit and Sarah Moseley. Pointing at Mrs Speaker, he says, "You ... not so much." She now says "Lives have been ruined by his comedy. I realise some people will watch the movie and find it funny, but for the people who were duped into appearing, what happened was anything but humorous." Action No plans to sue.

Lawsuits Against Borat

Patrick Barkham wrote in The Guardian, The success of the film Borat “has been matched by the wails of the offended and the murmur of American lawyers who believe that they, too, can make benefit from the movie. Indeed, the homophobic rodeo organiser and the boorishly drunk college kids whom Borat took advantage of may not elicit much sympathy in any bid to receive compensation. But that is not necessarily true of all his victims.” [Source: Patrick Barkham, The Guardian, November 24, 2006 <*>]

Among those who took legal action were: “Cindy Streit Etiquette coach and host of Magnolia Springs Manor dinner party: In the film Borat gives her a bag of excrement after a visit to the bathroom. She shows him how to flush it down the toilet. He is asked to leave when he invites a black prostitute - played by an actress - to the dinner. She now says She claims that her business, Etiquette Training Services, has been ruined. Action Has asked California's attorney general to investigate possible violations of the Unfair Trade Practices Act.<*>

“College students Known only as John Doe One and John Doe Two: In the film On a road trip, the frat boys from South Carolina University give Borat a lift. Shown drinking together, they are contemptuous of women and tell Borat that America is ruled by minorities. They also show him the sex video Pamela Anderson made with Tommy Lee. They now say The film caused them "mental anguish, humiliation, physical and emotional distress and loss of reputation". Action They are suing for fraud, breach of contract, invasion of privacy and distress. A spokesman for Twentieth Century Fox has said the legal action "has no merit". <*>

“Nicolae Todorache and Spiridom Ciorebea Villagers, Glod, Romania: In the film Todorache, who has lost an arm in an accident, was filmed with a rubber sex toy attached to the stump. Ciorebea played the "village mechanic and abortionist". Todorache now says "Our region is very poor, and everyone is trying hard to get out of this misery. It is outrageous to exploit people's misfortune like this - to laugh at them." Action A $30 million lawsuit has been filed in Manhattan's federal court.<*>

In September 2008, Sky News reported: “Lawsuits by two etiquette school teachers and a driving instructor who claimed the makers of the movie Borat deceived them have collapsed. New York Judge Loretta Preska said all three accepted money and signed agreements releasing the filmmakers from liability. She noted in a September 3 ruling that the contracts said the plaintiffs consented to appear in a "documentary-style" movie. Some of those who appeared in the movie felt humiliated, especially after the scale of its success. During the film, one of the etiquette teachers had to urge Baron Cohen not to talk about human faeces at the dinner table. [Source: Sky News, October 10, 2008 /+/]

“Two college students from a South Carolina university also tried to sue soon after the film's release. They alleged that they were duped into appearing in the film and signing agreements after being plied with alcohol. The students claimed footage of a drinking scene with Borat, in which they make racist comments, was defamatory. But their lawsuits were also dismissed. /+/

Lawsuits Against Borat by Romanians

Patrick Barkham wrote in The Guardian, Baron Cohen is a brave man to take on probably the most litigious people in the world. But he might not have expected the Romanians to get in on the act. On Monday a $30 million lawsuit was filed in Manhattan's federal court on behalf of Nicolae Todorache and Spiridom Ciorebea, two residents of Glod, the Romanian hamlet where scenes in Borat's "home town" were filmed. The men claimed they were told the film was a documentary about extreme poverty in Romania that would accurately depict their lives. "Nothing could have been further from the truth," the lawsuit says. "The project was intended to portray the plaintiffs ... and other villagers as rapists, abortionists, prostitutes, thieves, racists, bigots, simpletons and/or boors." [Source: Patrick Barkham, The Guardian, November 24, 2006 <*>]

“Nicolae Staicu, leader of the Roma in the area, accused the producers of paying locals just $3.30-$5.50. But Gregg Brilliant, a spokesman for Twentieth Century Fox, said that locals were paid twice the going rate for extras, while the production team and Baron Cohen each donated $5,000 to the village, paid a location fee and bought it computers and school supplies. He said the movie "was never presented to anyone in Romania as a documentary". <*>

“In turn, lawyers for the villagers argue that the producers deliberately exposed the victims to ridicule without allowing them a proper chance to give their consent. "This case is not about money but about dignity," says lawyer Ed Fagan, who helped win victims of the Holocaust an out-of-court settlement of $1.25 billion after filing lawsuits against Swiss banks that had allegedly failed to repay money belonging to the victims. The Romanians' legal team argues that, unlike participants in the US, they were not asked to sign any agreement or consent forms. <*>

“Baron Cohen's use of the people of Glod is more about morality and media ethics than law. Sherrell believes this negative publicity could increase the chances of Baron Cohen's backers pragmatically settling out of court: "If the stories are true, it appears that the villagers are impoverished and were treated very poorly. That casts the producers in a bad light. Picking on Romanian peasants for laughs isn't great PR. But legally the issues are the same: did the villagers give consent and, if they did, was it meaningful and based on a proper understanding of the project?"” <*>

Borat’s Legal Defense

Patrick Barkham wrote in The Guardian, Do the clauses on the forms handed out by Borat makers “protect Baron Cohen and his producers from legal action? According to Phil Sherrell, a media lawyer at international law firm Eversheds, the clause waiving the right to seek redress against the producers would be struck out under English law. "If this was playing out in England, the subjects would have a good claim that the nature of the project had been fraudulently misrepresented, and that the agreement was therefore void," he says. "If you look at clause four, there are constant references to the subjects being falsely or misleadingly portrayed. The producers might think that it flags up their intentions and makes it clear that emotional distress may be caused, but none of that would matter if the producers did completely mislead the victims about what they were letting themselves in for." [Source: Patrick Barkham, The Guardian, November 24, 2006 <*>]

“At least one US entertainment lawyer believes the forms are watertight, however. "Generally, these releases will hold up in court unless the person suing can prove that he signed the agreement under false pretences or while incapacitated," says Aaron Moss, an entertainment lawyer for LA-based Greenberg Glusker. "Even if a participant was lied to, a court may find that the person should have read the contract and that if he didn't, it's essentially his own fault." Nevertheless, etiquette coach Cindy Streit has asked California's attorney general to investigate the film. She claims the company that approached her, "Springland Films", put it in writing that the second of her two sessions with Borat would be "filmed as part of a documentary for Belarus Television and for those purposes only". Twentieth Century Fox, the studio behind Borat, has dismissed this claim as "nonsense". <*>

“Baron Cohen is far from the first prankster to fool the public on film. Nine years ago in Britain, Chris Morris's Channel 4 show Brass Eye devised similarly elaborate ruses to induce its subjects to believe satirical guff such as the existence of the deadly drug Cake, or the "fact" that paedophiles and crabs share the same genes. The Tory MP David Amess was fooled into asking a question in parliament - it was answered, too - about the perils of Cake. Amess took his case to the Independent Television Commission, which ruled in his favour. "If there are individuals who have been duped as I was about a serious subject, my advice to them is not to let it drop," he says. "It is out of control. If these ordinary people in America feel their rights have been violated [and go to court], I say good luck to them. Amess points out that while Morris's oblivious stooges were MPs and celebrities, many victims of Borat complain that they are ordinary folk and not public figures at all. (The only "victim" of Baron Cohen's who was a well-known public figure was Pamela Anderson, and she claims she knew about his antics in advance.) <*>

Borat Boosts Kazakhstan Tourist But Still Boom?

In 2012, a Kazakhstan official issued ‘thank you’ to Sacha Baron Cohen for the attention it brought for Kazakhstan. Will Stewart wrote on Daily MailOnline, “His 2006 film depicting a mock Kazakh TV journalist led to a huge boost in tourism and helped put the oil-rich former Soviet state on the map, Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov admitted in parliament. 'I salute ‘Borat’ for helping attract tourists to Kazakhstan,' he said. 'With the release of this film, the number of visas issued by Kazakhstan grew tenfold.' It took six years for the a top Kazakh official to admit anything other than disgust at the portrayal of his country in “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” [Source: Will Stewart, Daily MailOnline, April 23, 2012]

But one can not understated just how much the experience of Borat still pisses off Kazakhstan. Richard Orange wrote in The Telegraph, “The oil-rich Central Asian nation sees itself as several cuts above the wild, unstable "-Stans" surrounding it, with the sharp-suited elite driving brand new Porsche Cayennes and holidaying in Italy and the South of France. The country spent $1.65 billion hosting the Asian Winter Games...and it fought doggedly to win the right to host an international summit in December 2010, bringing Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, Dmitri Medvedev, the Russian President, and Nick Clegg, the British deputy prime minister to Astana, the country's showpiece capital. The country also hosts a constant stream of international film festivals, sponsors sports.The Astana cycling team featured Lance Armstrong, the seven-times Tour de France winner. All this, as well as the hiring of top Public Relations companies such as BGR Gabara, is in part a reaction to the film "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for make Benefit Glorious Nation Kazakhstan." [Source: Richard Orange, The Telegraph, February 18, 2011 ^/^]

“The Kazakhs sometimes try to see the joke. Erkin Rakishev, a local film director, is making, "My Brother, Borat", a Kazakh sequel to the Sacha Baron Cohen's 2006 film. But more often they bemoan its effect. "The film has left a negative stain on our country, and our students abroad are hurting in their hearts," Bekbolat Tleukhan, a Kazakh member of parliament, complained. "They are opposed to the fact that their country is shown in a bad light. I ask that measures be taken." Amantay Asilbek, with his Borat-like opinions, risks undoing the good work from Kazakhstan's four-year publicity drive if he makes it to the Presidential election. But perhaps the country's leadership only has itself to blame. Nurlan Uteshev, chairman of Zhas Otan, the youth wing of the pro-presidential party, argued last week in an interview that in Kazakhstan, few opposition candidates are in their positions by choice. "The president didn't believe in them so they were asked to leave the party," he said in an interview. "They had some conflicts, so they were told to go and join other parties." ^/^

Borat's Version of Kazakh Anthem Played at Medal Ceremony

In March 2012, the Olympic Committee of Asia accidentally played Borat’s spoof Kazakh national anthem during an awards ceremony for shooting medals in Kuwait. Will Stewart wrote on the Daily MailOnline, “Despite the diplomatic blunder, the Kazakh athlete who was the recipient of the major error, Maria Dmitrienko, refused to be flustered, and continued to the end of the made-up song. The rest of her shooting team, for who she has just won the gold medal were less than impressed however, and demanded the ceremony be re-run as well as a full apology made.[Source: Will Stewart, Daily MailOnline, April 23, 2012]

Among the lyrics was the verse: 'Kazakhstan’s prostitutes cleanest in the region. 'Except of course Turkmenistan’s' The Kazakh embassy in London was put under 'strict orders' to ensure British officials are aware of the correct anthem to ensure no embarrassing repeat at the London Olympics in July. Kazakh competitors are also being trained in their own anthem so they can immediately protest if the spoof version in played. Many of the country’s Olympic team are ethnic Russians who do not speak Kazakh, so they are being given a crash course in the words.

Barry Neild wrote in The Guardian, “A video posted on YouTube shows Dmitrienko on the podium, her hand on her heart, looking perplexed as the song begins to play. She appears to see the funny side and is smiling by the end. The blunder apparently occurred after the event's organisers downloaded the parody from the internet by mistake. They also got the Serbian anthem wrong. An apology was issued and the ceremony staged again. The incident was the second in the space of a few weeks involving a slip-up over Kazakhstan's anthem at a sporting event. Earlier this month, stunned officials opening a ski event in northern Kazakhstan were blasted with a few bars of Ricky Martin's Livin' la Vida Loca instead of the national tune.” [Source: Barry Neild, The Guardian, March 23, 2012]

Borat II

Leading Kazakh film director, Erkin Rakishev, released an unofficial sequel to Borat called “Titled My Brother Borat,” who tells the story of John, who decides to see Kazakhstan for himself and is surprised to discover a modern, prosperous nation. Richard Orange and Anita Singh wrote in The Telegraph, “Mr Rakishev is travelling to Britain...to promote the film. His approach would do Borat proud. He intends to hold a press conference accompanied by a life-sized Baron Cohen doll. “During the press conference I plan to do a performance. I want to take my shoe and punch the doll with my shoe, repeating, 'Cohen, you were not right. Cohen, you were not right,’” he said yesterday. [Source: Richard Orange and Anita Singh, The Telegraph, December 8, 2010 +++]

The plot of the film is also as bizarre as anything that Baron Cohen could have dreamed up. John meets Borat’s mentally ill brother, Bilo, in an asylum and they travel to Borat’s home village. On the way, Bilo is bitten by a dog “which makes him even more crazy than he was”, mistakenly drinks a magic erotic potion, is impregnated by a donkey and then gives birth to a dog. “If it was Borat’s brother who raped the donkey then perhaps it would be considered outrageous, but it is the other way round,” Mr Rakishev explained. +++

“He hopes that the film will undo Baron Cohen’s work and dispel the notion that Kazakh people are boorish anti-Semites. “I want Cohen to be remembered in history as a strange, bad, Jewish guy and I want to destroy his moustache as well,” he explained. The $1 million film was funded by unnamed private investors and shot mostly in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s commercial capital. It marks a departure for Mr Rakishev, whose previous films, Orphans and Hurt Feelings, were serious social dramas that were well-received by Kazakh film critics and audiences. +++

“The film stars two actors from Almaty’s leading theatre company but Mr Rakishev plans to hire British actors to over-dub an English language version while he is in London. He also wants to test England’s own sensitivities during his press conference. “I want to do a joke, and I want to see how it would be seen in England. If I say that people in England drink donkey’s urine and that the Queen drinks a pint a day and that Prince Andrew is homosexual, would people be offended?”

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2016

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