Archive for Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Romanians add to outcry against ‘Borat’

November 15, 2006

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— The name of this remote Romanian village means "mud," and that's exactly what angry locals are throwing back at Sacha Baron Cohen.

Cohen used Glod's Gypsies as stand-ins for Kazakhs in his runaway hit movie, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." Now offended villagers 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.

Residents and local officials in the scruffy hamlet 85 miles northwest of Bucharest said Tuesday they were horrified and humiliated to learn their abject poverty and simple ways are ridiculed in a movie now raking in millions at box offices worldwide.

"We thought they came here to help us - not mock us," said Dana Luca, 40, sweeping 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."

Nicolae Staicu, leader of the 1,670 Gypsies, or Roma, who eke out a living in one of the most impoverished corners of Romania, said he and other officials would meet with a public ombudsman today to map out a legal strategy against Cohen and "Borat" distributor 20th Century Fox. The film's opening sequence showing Borat's hometown in Kazakhstan is shot in Glod.

A man leads a cart loaded with hay in the village of Glod, Romania, 85 miles northwest of the capital, Bucharest. Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen used Glod&squot;s Gypsies as stand-ins for Kazakhs in his movie "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." Now, offended villagers are threatening to sue the film&squot;s producers for exploitation.

A man leads a cart loaded with hay in the village of Glod, Romania, 85 miles northwest of the capital, Bucharest. Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen used Glod's Gypsies as stand-ins for Kazakhs in his movie "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." Now, offended villagers are threatening to sue the film's producers for exploitation.

Staicu accused the producers of paying locals just 10 or 15 lei ($3.30-$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.

Only five villagers have jobs at a nearby sanatorium and a stone quarry, Staicu said. The rest weave baskets, grow apples, pears and plums, gather mushrooms in the dense Carpathian Mountain forests rising above the town, or raise a few scrawny chickens.

With no gas heating or indoor plumbing, most keep warm with wood stoves and drink from wells. Horse-drawn carts far outnumber automobiles on unpaved, badly potholed roads, and mangy stray dogs growl and snap at strangers.

Acrid fires smolder in trash piled up on the outskirts of the village, and children - their clothing worn and torn - play in yards littered with stumps, scrap metal and other bric-a-brac.

"These people are poor and they were tricked by people more intelligent than us," Staicu said. "They took one of our 75-year-old ladies, put huge silicone breasts on her and said she was 47. Another man they filmed to look like the poorest person in the world, and one of our men who is missing an arm had a plastic sex toy taped to his stump."

A 23-year-old woman who gave her name only as Irina said she felt bewildered and dismayed that Glod's poverty was reduced to a parody. The smash success of "Borat," she said, just rubbed salt in Glod's wounds.

"They made us put a cow in our living room, and they made it defecate and urinate in the house. Everyone's angry because they didn't pay them the way they should have," she said. "They're making a lot of money - but they've made us a laughingstock."

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