Monday, April 29, 2013

Boston University School of Law Article:
Borat, the Blogosphere and the Law: Panda Kroll writes on Humor in the Court

Borat, the Blogosphere and the Law:
Panda Kroll ('00) writes on Humor in the Court

When Panda Kroll (’00) first saw the movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit the Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, she didn’t realize that the vast majority of people with whom Borat interacts were unaware of the filmmaker's intentions. After hearing that many of the lawsuits which duped participants filed were dismissed in the pleading stage based on First Amendment defenses, Kroll decided to investigate further. ...Read more

Publication on Critical Thinking and Mischief

Article on the Borat Litigation

(Panda Kroll publication)


ABSTRACT: In the film “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” unwitting individuals are duped into portraying themselves in an unflattering light. The ad-lib film, which was expected to flop, went on to earn $260M at the box office and a 2007 Oscar nomination for best-adapted screenplay. Controversial and purposely offensive, the film spawned ten lawsuits against the producers, based on claims of defamation, invasion of privacy, fraud and rescission. Nevertheless, U.S. state and federal judges agreed that the film, by blending fact and fiction, serves a public interest by providing an “ironic commentary of ‘modern’ American culture.” By analyzing the primary sources in the litigation, students learn why this bizarre “mockumentary” was found deserving of U.S. First Amendment protection, and can apply critical thinking skills to the problem of balancing competing individual and group rights in a diverse society and global community.
Keywords:Critical Thinking, Media Literacy, Business Law, Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen, Mockumentary, Kazakhstan, Carmen Meets Borat, First Amendment, Otherness
Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp.127-146.   
...Read more

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Borat, the Blogosphere and the Law

Boston University School of Law Article on Kroll's Humor in the Court ...Read more

Friday, October 29, 2010

New Bruno Lawsuit Filed for Alleged Prop 8 Rally Mayhem

Mike Skiff, a self-described gay journalist was filming at an Prop 8 rally in Los Angeles, when he saw Baron Cohen and began filming him. The Bruno crew apparently objected. Bruno was allegedly stirring up both sides of the Prop 8 rally for footage in his upcoming film. A video posted on YouTube apparently shows the plaintiff pulled away from Baron Cohen by the crew. Skiff filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday has sued Baron Cohen and the producers for pain and suffering and civil rights violations.

We will be following this story. ...Read more

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Who ever said the law isn't sexy?" -

Dr. Laura, gay marriage, muslims and pot brownies are just a few of the legal controversies tackled with wit and humor by Lex Appeal, a blog/weekly podcast intended to put the luster back in law. The treatment is in-depth and the production values are great.

I recommend as a place to start the two-part piece on "crush" video legislation and judicial review.. The piece includes not only a short video of the less-offensive grape-crushing video that gives an insight into this dark fetish, as well as an interview with Mr. Crush himself, Jeff Vilencia.

Creators Matthew S. Schwartz and Ben Steffans provide a much-needed resource for those who don't have time to digest thick court decisions, and like their law served with a healthy dose of entertainment. Here's the provocative grape-crushing video:

...Read more

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bruno, like Borat found to be a subject of "public interest"

Decision granting Bruno's anti-SLAPP, dismissing PI lawsuit.

Bruno Olson Decision
$17k award to Bruno's producers as a sanction for Plaintiff's SLAPP. Thanks to Russell Smith for updating me on this lawsuit. ...Read more

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Is mischief justified when its purpose is to skewer ignorance?

In January 2010, I presented on this topic at the World Universities Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The paper, "Teaching through a Study of the Borat Litigation" has been published in the Journal of the World Universities Forum. Volume 3, Issue 4, pp.127-146.
...Read more

Friday, May 7, 2010

Article on Humor in the Court blog published here. ...Read more

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Panda Presenting Borat

Presenting to Santa Barbara IP Lawyers/Women in Film.
Thanks to Christine Kopitzke! ...Read more

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Palestinian files lawsuit over 'Bruno'

A lawsuit filed last week by Ayman Abu Aita in District of Columbia federal court seeks $110 million from Cohen, David Letterman and the producers of Bruno for alleged slander and libel. See .pdf of the federal complaint at left.
He was referred to as a terrorist on Letterman's show. ...Read more

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ruling Issued on Appeal of Dinner Party and Drivers Ed Plaintiffs

An appellate court has just put to rest the last of the Borat cases. See the summary order at left. Thanks to Adam Richards, plaintiffs' counsel, for forwarding this.
This raises the bar for consumers to read the contracts that they sign, especially releases. ...Read more

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Arguments for the appeal of the Dinner Party and Driver's Ed plaintiffs have been set for 10/28/09.
Will Borat's winning streak be struck on appeal? ...Read more

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Speaking today on the Borat litigation at Santa Barbara College of Law. ...Read more

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bruno: Vulgar and offensive, as always

"Redband" trailer for Bruno film. ...Read more

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Impending Bruno Lawsuits Part of Film's "Appeal?"

"The culture clash of [Cohen's] gay Austrian fashion reporter might be even greater than that of his Kazakh journalist. Just as entertaining will be the sideshow of Cohen's in-character interviews and the possible ensuing lawsuits." - Jack Coyle, Copyright © 2009 AP. All rights reserved.

Whether the film-viewing public consider the "Bruno" film sophisticated satire or evil humor, box office revenues for Sacha Baron Cohen's "sequel" are likely to rival those of Borat.

(opening July 10) ...Read more

Friday, April 24, 2009

Borat Litigation Overview

In 2006, Sacha Baron Cohen and Twentieth Century Fox brought Cohen's disarming foreign journalist to the big screen. Despite initial predictions the film would flop, it went on to earn $260M and garner top awards and nominations.

Plaintiffs in one of the ten Borat lawsuits alleged in their complaint that "what makes Borat funny is seeing how ordinary people react to him."

If so, it is equally true that there is entertainment -- as well as wisdom -- to be found in the judicial reactions to Borat, and the pending appeals of these reactions. Dismissed unhappy participants disagree with judicial opinions lauding the British/Kazakh Cohen/Borat for showing us America's racist, sexist, xenophobic underbelly. To assist your study and enjoyment of the Borat litigation, I have posted and analyzed the primary legal filings.

This litigation was brought by two sets of plaintiffs:
In Case 1, two "Frat Does" sued the producers for allegedly tricking them into agreeing to be in the film and portraying them in an alleged "false light."

In Case 2, a "Rodeo Doe" sued for using an image of him -- it filled the screen -- wearing a cap with a graphic containing a harley and a confederate flag.

Both cases were dismissed by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Biderman, who granted the producers' anti-SLAPP motion. The plaintiffs failed to carry their burden to show they were likely to prevail on their "damages" fraud claim, a fatal blow to the complaints, Collectively, plaintiffs paid nearly $100,000 in fees to the producers.

This litigation was brought by two sets of plaintiffs:
In Case 1, a man shown running away from Borat sued the producers under a New York Civil Rights Law.

In Case 2, a driver's education instructor sued, saying he deserved more than the $500 he was paid for his participation, because he was never let in on the joke.

Complaints brought by Southern etiquette teachers ("Dinner Party Plaintiffs") were transferred from
Alabama to New York and consolidated with the driver's ed case, above, for purposes of dismissal. Judge Preska of the Federal District Court, Southern District, New York found the film served a "public interest" and that the plaintiffs could not claim fraudulent inducement where they had signed an agreement expressly releasing the producers from any reliance on "surprise about the nature of the film or any statements made by anyone about the nature of the film."

Appellants' and Respondent's Briefs in New York Cases 1 and 2 have been filed with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

...Read more

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What is the basis of the Dinner Party appeal?

Film unfairly made plaintiffs appear racist.

The waiver contained in the "consent agreement" signed by Cindy Streit and the other Dinner Party appellants was allegedly ineffective and does not bar their lawsuit:

1) the agreement misled appellants/participants by characterizing the film as "documentary-style"; and

2) the agreement was fraudulently obtained through means of a slick con that resulted in the inaccurate and unflattering portrayal of appellants as racially intolerant.

Finally, by allegedly lying to appellants, providing them with drinks, and other trickery, producers allegedly unfairly induced appellants into participating in a film containing "racism, child pornography, sexism, nudity, anti-Semitism and vulgarity."
...Read more

What is the basis of the Driver's Ed appeal?

Plaintiff should be paid $100,000 for his participation in film, plus punies.

The fee agreement contained in the "consent agreement" signed by Michael Psenicska (the Driver's Ed appellant) was allegedly ineffective and does not bar his lawsuit:

1) the agreement was ambiguous in describing a "documentary-style" film, while the film was in fact a work of fiction; and

2) appellant should have been allowed to go further with his fraud claim because the producers engaged in a classic case of "bait and switch."

Counsel Peter Levine and Diane Krausz argue that the case shouldn't have been dismissed on the pleadings. They allege that producers told appellant that he would be participating in one kind of film (a documentary about integrating foreign people into the American way of life," yet in fact intended to and did trick into participating in another kind of film, a "work of fiction mocking the idea of tolerance and understanding among diverse peoples."

Unlike the other Borat plaintiffs, the Driver's Ed plaintiff does not seek to enjoin further distribution of the film in his complaint. Instead, he seeks damages of $100,000, representing the alleged true value of his participation in the film in light of the film's $260M film profits and $60M dvd profits, as well as punitive damages for the producers' alleged fraud.
...Read more

Monday, April 20, 2009

Borat Soundtrack

Borat Soundtrack (warning: explicit lyrics?)

...While Borat has become Kazakhstan's best-known (if not actually real) export, be warned that are no tunes from that country on the soundtrack. Instead, the music selection consists of mostly upbeat, brassy tunes from the Balkans (not even in the vicinity of Kazakhstan, a Central Asian land) by the likes of Kocani Orkestar and Esma Redzepova (from Macedonia); Fanfare Ciocarlia, Stefan de la Barbulesti, and Mahala Rai Banda (from Romania); and the peripatetic Goran Bregovic (from Bosnia and Herzegovina). Best of the lot: Fanfare Ciocarlia's tuba-heavy take on "Born to Be Wild." --Elisabeth Vincentelli ...Read more

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Borat's Director, Larry Charles Pokes Fun at Religion

Click text to purchase DVD from Amazon

...Read more

Religulous by Bill Maher: Prank or Public Interest?

Publicly released theatrical poster for Religulous (2007).
Copyright Lions Gate Entertainment, 2007.

Amazon Associates.
...Read more

Friday, April 10, 2009

Will the Second Circuit Upset Borat's 10-0 Winning Streak?

Borat Lovers and Haters Alike Await Higher Court Review

Borat Participants have appealed the New York Federal Court's GOTCHA! ruling.

Links at left provide the release signed by Borat plaintiffs/participants and their respective appeals of decisions tossing them out of court based on that release.

The release included a merger clause acknowledging non-reliance upon "any statements made by anyone about the nature of the film or any other Participants involved in the Film."

Based on such language, the court ruled that the fraud claim of the Dinner Party plaintiffs (Streit, et al.) and the Driver's Ed plaintiff (Psenicska) was barred as a matter of law. The trial court also ruled that the release was unambiguous in describing a "documentary-style" film intended to reach "a young adult audience" through "entertaining content and formats."

The appellants seek reversal of the New York Federal District Court's dismissal of their lawsuits at the pleading stage.

Unlike the California lawsuits, the dismissals in these cases were based on the validity of the release, and not on plaintiffs' failure to satisfy the burden-shifting "likely to prevail" requirement of California's unique anti-slapp law.
...Read more

Borat's "Mankini" As Worn At Cannes: Available For Purchase

Borat Mankini Swimsuit Costume Suspender Thong Green

Click text for purchase info ...Read more

DVD and Kazakhstan T-Shirt

Includes: Late Night with Conan O'Brien and the Toronto Film Festival, the infamous screening-gone-wrong.

Borat DVD with Glorious Kazakhstan T-shirt

Click text for purchase info ...Read more