Revisiting Borat Territory

Posted on September 3, 2010

What happened to the villagers who were misled into appearing as backward and ignorant Kazakhs in the film Borat? We find out in Carmen Meets Borat, airing Sunday, September 5 on Global Voices on PBS WORLD. Director Mercedes Stalenhoef follows the life of 17-year-old Carmen, who dreams of skipping town for a better life in Spain. Her plans to emigrate are spoiled, however, when an American film crew arrives to shoot Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.


The village is used in the movie to show where the main character comes from, and Borat depicts the villagers as primitive caricatures supposedly from Kazakhstan. Carmen’s grandfather even has a role in the film, unwittingly portrayed as an abortion expert who poses for the camera with a welding apparatus. The villagers don’t understand a word of English and laugh in good faith for the camera. When the film is released, the world press descends on the village and suddenly the townspeople are transformed by humiliation, jealousy and suspicion. The chaos is made complete when an American lawyer holds out the prospect of a $30 million insurance claim to the villagers. For Carmen, it becomes increasingly difficult to realize her dreams of a better life somewhere else.


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