However, I find his skewering unsuspecting private citizens–even if they’re ignorant or bigoted–rather cruel. Plus, there’s plenty of evidence that he and his producers actively mislead his subjects before filming them. When they sign the disclaimer, they’re agreeing to a deceptive and unfair bargain.
I was interested, then, to read this Georgia Straight piece about the 2009 DOXA Documentary Film Festival, and a panel on the ethics of film making. It focuses on a documentary called Carmen Meets Borat, which discusses the impact Cohen’s antics had on a poor Romanian 17-year-old. From the film’s creator, Dutch director Mercedes Stalenhoef:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“These people were not informed of what they were participating in,Ã¢â‚¬Â Stalenhoef observes in a call from Poland, where she is attending a film festival. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He [Cohen] told them, Ã¢â‚¬ËœItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a documentary,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what they thought. And then it was a comedy, and they were called nasty things. I think if you make a film, you should inform people so they can decide for themselves if they want to participate, and how much money they want for it.Ã¢â‚¬Â¦They [the villagers] got not so much money [from CohenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s crew]Ã¢â‚¬â€like, three euros.Ã¢â‚¬Â
And here’s a clip from the documentary:
I’m not sure where the new Cohen film BrÃƒÂ¼no will fall on the public-private paradigm. Attention-seeking fashion designers certainly deserve satire, but judging by the trailer, it looks like there are plenty of innocent victims as well.
Speaking of movies, I’ve been meaning to link to MovieSet’s coverage of this year’s Cannes Film Festival (caution, auto-playing video ahead).