Tuesday, November 14, 2006

First-person account from a guy who was in the Borat movie

Earlier this week, Bill Barr wrote about the Borat movie and how predatory the producers had been in the way they used the small European village where they filmed the opening scenes.

Salon had a Pollyanna-ish article about how the Americans in "Borat" mostly thought it was funny and didn't really have a problem with it.

Anyway, Andrew Tobias offers a different American perspective on the issue. Here's Texas hotel manager Borat calls "Vanilla Face" in the movie describing his experience.


CC
who wonders why it is that Girls Gone Wild has been pulling this crap for years, yet even I don't start blogging about it until it is similar behavior in a different sort of movie.

10 comments:

PG said...

GGW has serious problems beyond plying people with alcohol to get them to sign consent forms. Persuading someone to say racist and sexist things while intoxicated may be obnoxious, but it's legal; pushing someone into sexual acts while intoxicated can be construed as sexual assault.

I think any practical joke inherently screws with people's trust. One of my friends who routinely helps people out with their tech problems was really upset by SepiaMutiny's April Fool's joke of saying their website had been taken over. He thought they were sincere and put some time and effort into figuring out how to get it back for them, only to find out a few days later that it was all a prank.

The Borat producers owed Glod's people proper compensation for using their time and property, but I think using their village while identifying it as "Kazakh" actually was a good compromise. It makes it more of a made-up place, so no one has to feel like he's making fun of who they really are (which is the most insulting form).

Bill Baar said...

I was ready to leave the theatre after the first scenes in Romania. Especially the business about the prostitute and the one-armed man.

We stuck it out until the bed-and-breakfast with the two elderly Jews.

We never made it to the frat boy scenes.

There were funny moments but then I'd reminded myself these were real people Borat was having me laugh at, and then it all became very sad.

I hope the Romanians are successful with their lawsuit and get more then the three Euros they were paid to be mocked in this film.

Chalicechick said...

I think non-actors are always going to feel made fun of when put in that situation, and Gypsies face enough racism as it is.

And at least with GGW, the girls aren't lied to about what they are getting into.

CC

Bill Baar said...

The Gypsy stuff was very bad. I've never seen the GGW videos except for the commercials on late night tv.

I thought the Village was in the Ukraine and I thought of the war and the terrible toll on the Ukraine (Clyde Grubbs once wrote I played the WWII tape and he's right; it rolls daily for me.) To make jokes like that on that ground seemed a great offense to history for me.

Chalicechick said...

((Clyde Grubbs once wrote I played the WWII tape and he's right; it rolls daily for me))

Clyde's a sharp guy.

((I've never seen the GGW videos except for the commercials on late night tv.)))

That's a point.

CC

PG said...

bill,

Why did you think the village was in the Ukraine? Ukrainian and Romanian are fairly different languages -- the former is Slavic and the latter Romantic. Is that just the particular poverty-ridden part of Eastern Europe you know?

Incidentally, Gypsies are properly called Roma or by the name of their particular tribe. And the Borat soundtrack does include music from this ethnic group, as well as from several Romanian musicians.

It doesn't really make sense to say that Borat portrays Roma in a bad light, inasmuch as the village is supposed to be Kazakh, and as far as I know the filmmakers have not widely publicized it as a Romanian place (hence Bill's being able to mistake it as a Ukrainian).

Chalicechick said...

((
It doesn't really make sense to say that Borat portrays Roma in a bad light, inasmuch as the village is supposed to be Kazakh, and as far as I know the filmmakers have not widely publicized it as a Romanian place )))

This seems like a weird argument to me. If somebody came to your house and filmed every DVD of a stupid movie, every TV dinner and every tacky peice of clothing (not that they would find many, but still) and interviewed you, editing the dialogue to make you sound stupid, and used that footage in a movie about how backward people from Kansas are, would the fact that they got your state wrong make you feel that much better?

Just because some Americans don't know the difference between "Roma" and "Romanian" (which, let's face it, is a pretty easy confusion to make,) doesn't mean that the villagers don't have a serious beef, particularly since it sounds like they were promised a lot more than they got by people who have made a whole hell of a lot of money off this movie.

CC

Bill Baar said...

My wife told me she heard to Kazakh PhDs on NPR mention the Ukraine.... that sort of planted the idea.

I really don't recall the Villagers talking much at all... It was mostly Borat.

Here's Hitchen's in Slate on Borat. A column I largely agree with.

PG said...

But there is no confusion one could draw from the movie regarding Roma or Romanian ANYWAY, because he's claiming that it's all Kazakhstan!

Incidentally, I have no TV dinners but according to my little sister I have a lot of tacky clothing. She lives for the day when she can unleash the "What Not To Wear" folks on me. Sure, they'll humiliate me on national television by pointing out that I have clothes that are too tight or really meant for someone taller and thinner, or someone with a better butt, or whathaveyou, but I'll have a better wardrobe at the end. So I still say that the main offense I see by Borat is failing to compensate the people of Glod properly. They gave him their time and energy, and loaned him their property to mess up, and didn't get enough back. The suit they're considering, as far as I know, doesn't demand that he clip them from the movie; it just asks for some of the massive profits the movie is making. If they're most upset about the economic exploitation, I see no reason why I should be aghast at an alleged perpetuation of racism.

Bill Baar said...

So I still say that the main offense I see by Borat is failing to compensate the people of Glod properly.

When comedians, especially pro's, make jokes at the expense of people unaware they're in a joke, the comedian is on very thin ice for me.

Borat crashed through the ice throughout the movie (at least the third I watched). There were certainly funny moments but when I would reflect on these people as victims of Cohens jokes, the humor ran out for me.

To think this movie is broader social commentary on America is a real stretch for me too. Cohen trying to dress up his profits here as some outing of prejudice is a joke on people who fight prejudice.