Borat movie debut marred by German lawsuits
2 November 2006, Hamburg (dpa) - Following intense pre-release hype, Borat opened nationwide in Germany Thursday despite two lawsuits seeking injunctions against the movie alleging 'racial incitement.'
2 November 2006
Hamburg (dpa) - Following intense pre-release hype, Borat opened nationwide in Germany Thursday despite two lawsuits seeking injunctions against the movie alleging 'racial incitement.'
Authorities in Hamburg said they were looking into claims that the provocative movie about a fictional Kazakhstan newsman who is blatantly misogynistic, racist and violent contains dialogue and situations which could be construed as promoting white-supremacist, anti-Semitic and anti-gypsy ideology.
The lawsuits accuse the German distributors of the film, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment Germany, of violating strict post-war German defamation laws. The laws, enacted in the wake of Nazi atrocities against Jews, gypsies and other minorities, make it a criminal offence to disseminate anti-Semitic and racist views.
Representing gypsy interests, the Hamburg-based European Centre for Antiziganism Research filed one of the lawsuits. The other was filed by an anonymous person, according to authorities in Hamburg.
Both lawsuits accuse British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen of disseminating hate propaganda.
'We are accusing him of defamation and inciting violence against Sinti and Roma,' said Marko D Knudsen, chairman of the Antiziganism centre, which takes its name from the term for hostility towards gypsies.
The group objects to remarks, violence and discrimination against gypsies in the film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
In the satire Cohen portrays Borat Sagdiyev, a fictional Kazakh television journalist who travels to the United States to report on American life. During his travels he spouts politically incorrect opinions against a wide range of targets, including women, non-whites, gays, Jews and gypsies while at the same time bragging about sex with minors and violence towards children and animals.
'I know the film is intended as satire,' Knudsen said in an interview Thursday. 'But for the humour ends when the protagonist tries to get laughs out of scenes in which he runs down gypsies with an armoured vehicle and suggests they should be exterminated.'
Knudsen said he fears the film panders to latent anti-gypsy sentiments among Germans, particularly in formerly Communist eastern Germany. He noted that neo-Nazi attacks on non-Germans have increased dramatically in recent years in eastern Germany.
'It makes me sudden when I see Cohen promoting this film on the Internet with a line that suggests a good way to make money is to remove dental gold from the mouths of dead gypsies,' Knudsen said.
'You have to remember that precisely that attitude prevailed in Germany only a couple of generations ago and that precisely such atrocities were carried out at Nazi death camps,' he added.
In Germany, Borat - Cohen's second feature film - has opened to intense pre-release media hype despite the fact that the Borat character is unknown in this country.
Cohen's TV shows Da Ali G Show and Borat's Television Programme have never aired in Germany and most Germans are wholly unfamiliar with him and his comedy sketch characters Borat, the shock rapper Ali G and the gay fashion guru Bruno.
American unfamiliarity with Cohen has prompted Fox to scale back the launch in North America, cutting the number of cinemas it plans to open it in from 2,000 to 800.
Nonetheless, Cohen has secured a reported 30 million-dollar deal for a follow-up film featuring his alter ego Bruno.
As Bruno, he is a camp fashion reporter who describes himself as 'the voice of Austrian youth TV' and hosts a slot where the character dupes fashionistas into making ridiculous and contradictory statements.
The British comic, whose film opens in America and Europe this weekend, was signed by Universal Pictures after a fierce bidding war for the rights to Bruno, Cohen's gay Austrian fashion fanatic.
Universal beat Sony Pictures, DreamWorks, 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers to sign Cohen.
While Borat has received rave reviews in the West, Kazakhstan has been less enthusiastic about Borat's portrayal of its citizens as misogynist anti-Semites who drink horse urine.
The former Soviet republic ran a four-page advertisement in The New York Times offering Americans a more positive view of their homeland and Baron Cohen has been invited to see the country for himself.
Subject: German news