Sacha Baron Cohen has failed to impress US test audiences with his new film, tentatively titled Bruno: Delicious Journeys Through America For The Purpose Of Making Heterosexual Males Visibly Uncomfortable In The Presence Of A Gay Foreigner In
A Mesh T-Shirt - with many taking offence at the character called Jesus who wears a crown of thorns and a loincloth like the Christian
A source said: Sacha has really gone for the shock tactics this time. The characters were created deliberately to wind certain sections of society up and Jesus is one of them. It won't be the first time Sacha has landed himself in hot
water. Religion isn't always the best place to poke fun.
With impeccable timing, Sacha Baron Cohen has found a fresh collection of minority groups to take offence at his work.
A month before the release of his latest satirical movie, Bruno , the British comedian has provoked noisy complaints from America's gay rights lobby about the alleged excesses of his new alter ego: a flamboyantly homosexual fashion
journalist from Austria called Bruno. The character, who spends the film wearing mesh vests, zebra-skin underwear and leather S&M gear, is supposed to send-up the ignorance and intolerance of real-life individuals he meets during a filmed
journey across the US. However, he has instead been accused of promoting gay stereotypes.
Rashad Robinson, of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said: Sacha Baron Cohen's well-meaning attempt at satire is problematic in many places and outright offensive in others.
Ms Robinson is particularly troubled by a scene in which Bruno appears on a TV chat-show brandishing an adopted child dressed in a T-shirt with the logo "gay-by." He boasts to the seemingly-conservative studio audience that the infant
is proving a highly-effective man magnet. Also near the knuckle are scenes in which Baron Cohen's character attempts to seduce the former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul (who storms out of the room muttering about queers ) and takes lessons in how to fight off predatory homosexuals from a martial arts instructor.
Gay rights groups are concerned that US audiences will fail to appreciate Baron Cohen's irony and instead leave the cinema with their homophobia reinforced. Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay lobbying organisation in the US, has even called
for filmgoers to be instructed about the message they should draw from the film, which follows TV presenter Bruno's efforts to be cured of his homosexuality in order to re-launch his career.
Universal Pictures, which financed the project, issued a statement this week saying that Bruno uses provocative comedy to powerfully shed light on the absurdity of many kinds of intolerance and ignorance, including homophobia. By placing
himself in radical and risky situations, Sacha Baron Cohen forces both the people Bruno meets and the audience itself to challenge their own stereotypes, preconceptions and discomforts. We believe the overwhelming majority of the audience will
understand and appreciate the film's unarguably positive intentions.
No doubt about it—Sacha Baron Cohen uses every negative gay stereotype you could possibly imagine in his portrayal of Brüno , his Austrian fashion journalist alter ego.
He's a flamboyant limp-wristed queen who has wild sex, dresses in barely-there S&M ensembles and has never met a Swarovski crystal he doesn't like.
Is it any wonder that a big portion of gay Hollywood finds parts of the upcoming Brüno movie more offensive than humorous?
GLAAD, the gay media watchdog group, is so concerned about Cohen's depiction of homosexuality in the flick that it asked Universal Pictures, the studio releasing Brüno , to include a message of support for gay rights and tolerance
from Cohen at the end of the movie. The request was denied.
One scene includes Brüno and a sexual partner tied up in chains in a hotel room, wearing nothing but G-strings. Also in the room? A tarp on the wall is dirtied with fecal stains and there are gerbils in a dresser drawer, according to
Hollywood blog The Wrap.
Robinson said GLAAD is also concerned about a scene in which Brüno appears on a talk show to discuss his adoption of an African baby. They asked that a photo shown during the bit showing a baby sitting in the same hot tub where two men are
having sex be cut.
Universal has promised that GLAAD can see the movie another time before its July 7 debut, Robinson said. A rep for the studio declined to comment about the possibility of a future screening.
The BBFC has ruled that strong sexual content in three scenes of Brüno made one of the summer's most widely anticipated films unsuitable for the 15 certificate needed to generate a blockbuster audience. The British comic's two
previous efforts, Ali G Indahouse and Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, were both rated 15.
A re-edit helped to avert a worse fate in the United States where Brüno was originally awarded a NC-17 rating, meaning that most American cinemas would not have screened it. A revised version was later passed as an “R”, restricted to
over 17s or younger teenagers accompanied by an adult.
The same revised version, where black circles were inserted to cover body parts, was presented to the BBFC.
Under the British censor's system which unlike their American equivalent is based partly on public consultation this was insufficient to earn a lower rating. A spokesperson said: We felt that made it worse not better in some scenes because you
could not tell what was acted out.
In two of the three most extreme scenes the sex was faked: an outrageous love scene between Brüno and his pygmy boyfriend and a sequence where Brüno mimes a sexual act in explicit detail.
However a third, filmed at a real swinger's party, shows unsimulated sex.
Conor Dignam, editor of the industry magazine Screen International, suggested that they may be gambling that the notoriety of an 18 certificate will merely build anticipation amongst a teenage audience and guarantee an even longer commercial life
on DVD and television.
The film's distributor Universal described the 18 certificate as absurd .
There is no question they will lose money because of us. They actually requested the 18 certificate, explained BBFC spokeswoman Sue Clark. They knew very early on, at an advice viewing, that if they wanted a 15 they would have to cut
some scenes. They have had plenty of time to do it and have chosen not to.
The scenes deemed unsuitable for a younger audience included an extended sex sequence starring Brüno and his pygmy boyfriend, another in which he mimes oral sex with a ghost of German dance act Milli Vanilli, and a third in which he attends
a swingers' party.
Last night, David Kosse, president of Universal Pictures International, said the company had been left with no other option than to submit the film with an 18 request: They requested cuts that were some of the funniest bits of the movie.
Ultimately you then know what you are going to get and, at the end of the day, we submitted the film to be an 18. We clearly wanted it to be a 15. In Ireland it is a 16, in the Netherlands a 12 and in America an R. It is absurd that you can see
it as a 17-year-old in Dublin but not in London.
Kosse said the cuts would have proved too much of a compromise. Why take a movie that is very, very funny to the rest of the world but say the population of one country cannot see that version?
With Bruno, Bruno, Bruno. What can you say? The BBFC have said its gonna have to be 18, Universal (the distributor) have said Waaaa Waaaa Waaa. Why? Money. That's all. What else would you expect from an American company? The almighty dollar
is in trouble on the shores of Blighty. However, I'm inclined to agree with the BBFC on this one. Anything to do with gay sex or homosexual references is always going to be taboo. Certain people will automatically dismiss this film as Fucking
faggots, Fuck 'em . Everyone knows a man that won't watch Priscilla : Queen of the Dessert, because it has Fucking faggots in it. Even though, during that whole film we're only told the trio are gay / female performers, we never
actually see anything, not even an onscreen kiss. Even the kiddie fiddling uncle had his scene severely edited by the director, as it lowered the overall comedic tone of the movie.
The thing is with Bruno , its getting exactly what it set out to get, adverse publicity, public outcry, and massive media interest. All of which will sell tickets, DVD's etc. For entertainers like Sacha Baron Cohen, this is probably the
highest accolade he could receive. These people don't set out to offend, they just push the envelope in a way only they can, and their aware that this boundary pushing WILL upset, WILL offend, but will ultimately buy another storey for their
I really don't think the BBFC should be blamed for their decision. They've done their job, so they're happy (as are their peers). The films uncut (although it is the slightly tainted U.S. print, but, small price) so I'm happy, in fact the only
people who aren't happy, are the money grabbers at Universal. Why though? surely the film will make its money on DVD? where it will be seen by a majority of under 18's anyway. Did Borat break the box office? No. As for Ali G's transition to the
big screen i don't remember that being up to Forrest Gumps takings. So I think it's safe to say, that Universal are just spoilt children that want ice cream before dinner. They know they're going to get the cash, they just want it NOW. If
Universal had a brain they'd release the full uncut version in the U.K. (the BBFC would pass it as an 18), and advertise the hell out of the fact that the Brits have one up on their (supposedly) free brothers across the pond. But alas, no.
They'll realise that just in time for the DVD.
The distributors of Bruno have just cut a quip or two about Michael Jackson. LaToya Jackson makes an appearance in the film and this generates a couple of references to Michael.
The BBFC write:
Re-edited version, Following the death of pop star Michael Jackson, the company chose to remove a sequence involving the star's sister, LaToya, which includes references to her late brother. Otherwise, the work remains
identical to the previously classified '18' version.
The BBFC have also kindly explained their decision to award an 18 certificate:
BRUNO is a satirical comedy in which Sacha Baron Cohen plays gay Austrian fashion show presenter Bruno, who falls into disgrace and travels to the States in an attempt to achieve fame. This film was classified '18' in
accordance with BBFC Guidelines, for strong sex and strong sex references. At '15', the Guidelines state that 'sexual activity may be portrayed but without strong detail. There may be strong verbal references to sexual behaviour'. Both the scenes
of strong sex and the sex references were considered by the Board to go beyond the '15' level, but acceptable at the adult '18' category. There are three strong sex scenes in the film. The first one features a montage of exaggerated sexual
activity, including Bruno being anally penetrated by a dildo on a long rod attached to an exercise bike, which his boyfriend is pedalling. Other details include implied anal penetration with a fire extinguisher hose, as well as with a champagne
bottle, and sight of a vacuum pump being used on Bruno's scrotum. The second shows Bruno comically miming fellatio and anilingus as he pretends to have oral sex with a deceased person with whom he is in contact through a medium, while the third
scene features sex between couples at a swingers' party, with sexual detail obscured.
The film also contains some uses of strong language.
UK cinema-goers are to be presented with two alternative versions of hit comedy film Bruno from Friday, 24 July.
A 15-rated edit of the movie will be distributed alongside the original MPAA cut version, which has an 18 certificate.
It is the first time alternate versions of a film have been released in the UK at the same time.
Universal Pictures said it had re-cut the film after cinemas reported turning away large numbers of teenagers during the opening weekend.
Only 1 minute 50 seconds had been lost from the original, it said.
Sacha Baron Cohen's mock documentary went straight to number one in the US this weekend. It is expected to achieve a similar feat in the UK, despite its restrictive certificate.
Universal said the movie had taken an estimated £5m at the UK and Ireland box office since it opened on 12 July. If that figure is verified, Bruno will have achieved the biggest opening weekend of all time for an 18-rated film.
The BBFC commented about the 15 rated version Snipped version of Brüno:
This film was originally shown to the BBFC in an unfinished version. The BBFC advised the company that the film was likely to receive an '18' classification but that the requested '15' certificate could be achieved by making
changes to three scenes. In particular the BBFC suggested that the company remove the majority of a montage of exaggerated sexual activity between Bruno and his boyfriend; Bruno comically miming fellatio and anilingus as he pretends to have oral
sex with a deceased person with whom he is in contact through a medium; and sex between couples at a swingers' party and aggressive sexual dialogue at the same party. When this version of the feature was submitted these changes had been made and
the film was classified '15'. A previous version of the feature was submitted without these changes and was classified at '18'.
Bruno is to become the most complained-about film of the year in Australia and is set to be sued by a terrorist leader featured in the movie who claims the interview was conducted under false pretences.
Bruno, which features swingers' parties, barely-pixelated oral sex and a "talking" male appendage, has clocked up 12 complaints with the Classification Board since it started screening in Australia with a MA15+ rating last Wednesday.
All say the film, based on Sasha Baron Cohen's flamboyantly gay fashionista character, should be rated R18+.
MA15+ bars under-15s without a parent or guardian while R18+ bars under-18s from viewing the film at all.
In New Zealand, Bruno has been rated R16, which restricts those aged under 16 from watching.
In the US, it is rated R, which means under-17s must be accompanied by a guardian.
Ayman Abu Aita, who is labelled in the movie as a terrorist group leader, said he was shocked when he learned five days ago the film depicts a homosexual character and contains scenes including full frontal male nudity and graphic
homosexual fetish sex.
Aita also slammed Baron Cohen as a big liar who made up stories when describing to David Letterman the way he met Aita at an undisclosed location. Aita said he is pursuing legal action against Baron Cohen.
It may have been the visit to the swingers' party that did it. Or perhaps it was the scene where Brüno drops in to see a medium and simulates oral and anal sex with a ghost. Either way, the antics of Sacha Baron Cohen's Brüno all appear
to be too much for Ukraine.
According to reports, Ukraine's culture and tourism ministry is set to ban the film Brüno , which was due for release in the post-Soviet country next week.
The ministry has so far not explained its decision. But it appears to have taken the view that several of the scenes – among them a mock gay parade, and one in which Brüno shows off his penis – were likely to offend conservative and
Ukraine's Catholic west and orthodox east take a dim view of gay rights, and hold highly traditional social views. And despite efforts by Ukraine's western-leaning political elite to integrate with Europe, there is little sign of a more liberal
view taking hold.
Yesterday, however, some sources in Ukraine's cinema industry suggested that the controversy may simply be an elaborate publicity stunt, dreamed up by distributors Sinergia to boost the film ahead of its release.
The Ukrainian website korrespondent.net, however, today reported the ban was genuine.
A "terrorist leader" interviewed in the just-rreleased hit movie "Bruno" is fuming mad, telling WND the film mislabels him and that the movie's star, Sasha Baron Cohen, conducted the interview under false pretenses.
Ayman Abu Aita slammed Baron Cohen as a big liar who "made up stories" when describing to CBS's David Letterman last week the way he met Aita at an undisclosed location. Aita said he is pursuing legal action against Baron Cohen.
[Baron Cohen] said this was a film going to help the Palestinian cause, Aita told WND. When I heard (four days ago) what this film was about I really didn't believe it.
At one point in the movie, Bruno meets Aita, depicted as a terrorist group leader from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, in a bid to seduce the jihadist group into kidnapping him so Bruno can become famous.
During the interview, Aita explained: [Bruno] said he is a German actor making documentaries watched by young people. ... He wanted to make a story to mobilize the young people to help us (Palestinians). ... I didn't have any impression he
would use my interview in a bad way.
The Brigades is responsible for scores of suicide bombings, shootings and deadly rocket attacks against Israeli civilian population centers. Aita, however, is not exactly a terrorist. At least not anymore Aita is a representative of Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party to the West Bank town of Beit Sahor, which is a satellite of Bethlehem. Aita also is a board member of the Holy Land Trust, a nongovernmental organization promoting Palestinian rights and commitment
Aita served in the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades from 2000 until 2003, after which he did a two year stint in Israeli prison on accusations he was involved in shootings against Israeli soldiers operating in Bethlehem. Still, according to Israeli
security sources speaking to WND, Aita, while a member of the Brigades, once worked with Jewish state officials to return two Israeli reserve soldiers who had gotten lost in Bethlehem.
Sacha Baron Cohen has stepped up his security after being threatened by a militant Palestinian group angered at its portrayal in the film Brüno .
The al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a coalition of Palestinian militias in the West Bank, said in a statement released to a Jerusalem-based journalist that it was very upset that it featured in the film starring Baron Cohen's homosexual
fashionista alter ego: We reserve the right to respond in the way we find suitable against this man. The movie was part of a conspiracy against the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.
The comic is taking the threat seriously and has improved security for himself and his family in preparation for violent reprisals.
Baron Cohen's Austrian character ridicules the Martyrs' Brigades when he bids for fame by getting himself kidnapped by Ayman Abu Aita, who is identified in the film as the leader of the organisation.
Abu Aita's lawyer, Hatem Abu Ahmad, said that he is preparing a legal action against Baron Cohen and Universal Studios alleging that the Martyrs' Brigade reference could get his client in trouble with the Israelis and the homosexual association
could get him killed by the Palestinians.
Abu Ahmad said: This joke is very dangerous. We are not in the United States, we are not in Europe, we are in the Middle East and the world operates differently here. Aaron Klein, the WorldNet reporter who received the statement from the
Martyrs' Brigades, said: These are terrorists. They are against feminism, gay rights and abortion. Once I asked them what would they do if they found out one of their members was a homosexual. They said they would cut off his head.
Baron Cohen also angered Orthodox Jews during the filming of Brüno in Jerusalem when he nearly provoked a riot as he strutted down the street in a sexed-up Hasidic outfit with skintight shorts.
For many years, polls have shown that the public neither understands the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) ratings nor trusts them. Nevertheless, people assume the MPAA is an impartial body and that the ratings have some basis in
moral, ethical or child-development standards. When the public's confusion drifts over into the press, it is time once again to clarify the issue.
The rating for the recent bigoted and pornographic comedy Bruno is a prime example. It should have been NC-17. Some countries even banned it.
Bruno contains not only graphic scenes of sodomy, intercourse and sadomasochism, but also a graphic oral sex scene and a close-up of a male sex organ. What arguably is worse, if that is possible, are the movie's attacks on blacks, Jews and
Because the MPAA was helping one of its member's movies by giving it an R rating instead of an NC-17, we decided to ask local authorities to view the movie and rate it according to their community standards. Community ratings boards used to be
the norm. At one time, there were more than 300 of them in the United States. In response to our inquiry letter, several district attorneys said they would look at the movie to consider re-rating it.
We also told the public about some of the horrendous things in the movie. This is not censorship. Censorship by definition is prior restraint by the government. Because the movie already had been made, our action couldn't be prior restraint.
Also, because we are not a government agency, we cannot censor anything. Anyone, however, can warn family, friends and community, and we did just that.
A promotional poster for Bruno has been deemed too risque by an advertising agency that banned the ads from the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway system.
The comedy and all its promotional material had been approved by the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority, Hong Kong's ratings administrator, with the film rated Category III (restricted to people over 18) and the advertising material
rated Category I, suitable for all ages.
The ad agency has taken offense at a term in the film's translated Chinese title, a pun that means both definitely deceive and make hard in Chinese.
It's standard practice for us to censor the advertising materials when we receive them, even after they've been approved by TELA. We're uncomfortable with the wordings, and are concerned that it might affect the passengers, so we decided to
reject the ad, Amy Chan, deputy managing director of JCDecaux told The Hollywood Reporter. The admittedly conservative agency has asked the film's distributor, Panorama, to change the wording, a request the distributor refused to
Malaysia has banned Sacha Baron Cohen's comedy Bruno because it contains a lot of sex, a senior official said .
The movie has been banned in Malaysia because of the sexual content. It was decided by a three-man committee. (There is) a lot of sex in it, an official with the National Film Censorship Board told AFP.
He said the panel judges movies based on whether they feature violence, horror, sex or counter-cultural themes. In the case of Bruno , the ban is based on its sex and counter-culture content, he said on condition of anonymity.
Borat was also banned in Malaysia. Since last year alone, Malaysia has banned five movies, the most recent being US horror film Halloween II , written and directed by Rob Zombie.
A Palestinian has dragged British funnyman Sacha Baron Cohen to court claiming 70 million pounds in a libel suit over his portrayal in the flick Bruno .
A scene in Bruno shows Cohen's character claiming to have travelled to the Ein El-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon to meet a leader of the Al-Aqsa Brigades. A caption labels Abu Aita as Terrorist group leader, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade .
Ayman Abu Aita, a grocer and activist from Bethlehem says the movie has destroyed his life. He claims that his life has been threatened since the movie's release and adds that he does not support terrorism, reports the Telegraph.
Aita says he met Cohen believing he was a German making a film about the Palestinian cause.