Stingy Borat

I don’t want to spoil the Borat party, but spare a thought for the poor (in every sense) denizens of Glod, the remote Romanian village that stood in for Kazakhstan at the start of the film. Chris Condon in the Financial Times reports on the miserly treatment they received from the film’s producers:

Borat not so funny for folk mocked in spoof movie

By Christopher Condon

The residents of Glod, a remote village in south-east Romania that supplies the opening sequence of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, still don’t know what hit them. They are just beginning to understand that cinema audiences around the world are laughing at them.

To add insult to injury, the residents of a village whose name literally means “mud” say they were paid a pittance for their appearance in the spoof documentary that grossed $26m (€20m, £13m) in its first weekend.

Although hundreds of miles away from Kazakhstan, Glod appears in the first four minutes of the film as the fictional home town of Borat Sagdiyev, a Kazakh journalist, who sets off for America to discover what it can teach his country.

Paraschiva Stoian, the toothless 73-year-old who played Borat’s mother, got €30 (£20, $38) and 200kg of cement – which she is using to make improvements on her tiny house. But the diminutive Mrs Stoian says she feels “insulted”, especially because the film crew insisted she put balloons under her shirt to simulate large breasts.

When Mr Baron Cohen, the film’s British star, spent 10 days filming in Glod last summer, he donated two computers, a television and a photocopier to the local school. Several residents were paid for their bit parts in the film, usually about €4-€5. Those whose property was filmed received up to €30 for each day of shooting.

Paulina Solomon, whose aging Dacia car – drawn by a horse – was used in Borat’s send-off, remains bitter about the experience, which earned her €100. Asked which was worse, being poorly paid or having been mocked on film, she says, “The mocking is far worse.” Asked if she would do it again if she were paid more money, her answer is just as swift: “Yes. We are hungry for money.”

Petre Buzea, the vice- mayor of Moroieni, the municipality that encompasses Glod, cares less about whether the residents of Glod feel offended. “They got paid, so I am sure they are happy. These gypsies will even kill their own father for money.” He complains that Mr Baron Cohen showed only the very worst parts of the village, even though the city hall recently built a church and modernised the school in Glod. “Of course none of that was shown in the film,” he says.

Gheorghe Fugaciu, whose home appears in the film with a cow in the living room, marches out on to the street to chase away a pair of visiting journalists. “Go away,” he thunders. “No one else will come into this house. Go away. Goodbye.”

Even at the best of times, Glod’s 1,400 residents, about half of whom appear to be of Roma origin, have few reasons to be cheerful. There is little steady work. People survive by growing vegetables, keeping cows and chickens and gathering wood from the forested hillsides to heat their homes. Horses and donkeys provide much of the local transport.

A few of the houses are freshly painted and well kept but most are in various stages of decay. There is no municipal water. Washed clothes hang to dry in the wintry air on lines strung over rocky, muddy gardens.

Glod’s poverty is typical of rural Romania. The country is about to join the European Union but the influx of foreign investment into its cities has yet to trickle down to the countryside.

Paul Luca, a community leader, says only a small handful of young people have emigrated from the village because it is too expensive to complete all the paperwork and travel abroad looking for work.

On top of this, Glod’s residents now feel they have been cheated.

They knew Mr Baron Cohen was a western comedian but they had no idea he was a celebrity with a blockbuster in the making.

They caught their first glimpse of their part in the film when a Romanian television station aired the opening village segment alongside the assertion that its residents had made fools of themselves just for the sake of a few euros.

Gene adds: Let the lawsuits begin.