Borat screws Roma

Media accounts have failed to emphasize that the folks cynically exploited by the sneering faux journalist are not only Romanian but Roma (Gypsy)—as if they don’t have enough problems already. From The Guardian, Nov. 15:

The residents of a remote Romanian village used as stand-ins for Kazakhs in the Borat movie are threatening to sue the film’s producers for paying them a pittance to put farm animals in their homes and perform other crude antics.

The people of Glod, located 140km north-west of Bucharest, told the Associated Press yesterday that they were horrified and humiliated to find their abject poverty and simple ways ridiculed in the movie, which has raked in $67m (£35.4m) at the US box office in just two weeks.

The opening sequence of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, purportedly showing Borat’s home town in Kazakhstan, is shot in Glod. Glod, incidentally, means “mud”.

“We thought they came here to help us, not mock us,” said one resident while she swept a manure-stained street lined with shabby homes of crumbling brick and corrugated iron sheeting. “We haven’t got anything here. We haven’t got running water. We can’t even bathe,” she said. “We are poor people, but we are still people.”

Roma community leader Nicolae Staicu said he and other officials would meet with a public ombudsman today to map out a legal strategy against Borat creator Sacha Baron Cohen and distributor 20th Century Fox.

Staicu accused the producers of paying locals just $3.30 to $5.50, misleading the village into thinking the movie would be a documentary, refusing to sign proper filming contracts and enticing easily exploited peasants into performing crass acts.

But a spokesman for 20th Century Fox has said that locals were paid twice the going rate for extras. He said the production team and Cohen each donated $5,000 (£2,600) to the town, paid a location fee and bought it computers, school and office supplies. It was clear from the start that the film was a comedy, he said, dismissing as “misleading” the notion that villagers thought it was a documentary.

This is not Borat’s first brush with the law – two university students filed a lawsuit against the studio last week alleging that they were duped into appearing in a humiliating skit in the film, while a Turkish man threatened to take legal action against Cohen for stealing his ideas.

We have noted that, outside the global media spotlight, Roma are subject to ethnic cleansing from Kosovo to Iraq. All they need is to be exploited and humiliated by the same global media leviathan.

See our last posts on Borat and the media culture wars.