Residents of a remote Romanian village filed a $30 million lawsuit Monday over their depiction in the hit movie “Borat,” accusing the filmmakers of misleading them into thinking the project was a documentary about poverty.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Manhattan on behalf of Nicolae Todorache and Spiridom Ciorebea, two residents of Glod, Romania, where residents were used as stand-ins for Kazakhs in the film.
The plaintiffs alleged that 20th Century Fox Film Corp. and others involved in the comedy exploited them, telling them the movie was a documentary about extreme poverty in Romania that would fairly depict their lives, occupations, heritage and beliefs.
“Nothing could have been further from the truth,” the lawsuit said. “The project was intended to portray the plaintiffs ... and other villagers as rapists, abortionists, prostitutes, thieves, racists, bigots, simpletons and/or boors.”
In the movie, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen portrays a Kazakh journalist traveling across America in comic encounters that mock Americans. The film’s opening sequence showing Borat’s hometown in Kazakhstan is shot in Glod, 85 miles northwest of Bucharest.
Gregg Brilliant, a spokesman for 20th Century Fox, “Borat’s” distributor, said the movie “was never presented to anyone in Romania as a documentary.”
He said village residents were paid above the usual rate and mixed with professional actors and others to portray a fictional village. He said there was irony in the allegations in the lawsuit.
“It’s a film that uses satire to expose racism and bigotry,” he said.
The movie has been a surprise hit at the box office, earning more than $90 million so far in the United States.
People in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan also have complained about their depiction in the film.
In addition, two members of a South Carolina college fraternity have sued 20th Century Fox and three production companies over their appearance in the movie making drunken, insulting comments about women and minorities.
They say the crew got them drunk in a bar before filming and told them the movie would not be shown in the United States.