Czech Dream

Original, cheeky treatise on capitalism, with more than a whiff of exploitation, follows two film students who used a state grant to promote the opening of an entirely fictitious big-box mega-market in a Prague field. A strong item for fests, pic could surf the wave of contempo non-fiction films to some theatrical bookings.

An original, cheeky treatise on capitalism, with more than a whiff of exploitation, “Czech Dream” follows two film students who used a state grant to promote the opening of an entirely fictitious big-box mega-market in a Prague field. The resulting scandal, alternately hilarious and discomfiting, illuminates the waking nightmare of consumerism in a country still adjusting to the strengths and pitfalls of the concept. A strong item for fests, pic — dubbed a “provocumentary” by its makers — could surf the wave of contempo non-fiction films to some theatrical bookings.

Known as “hypermarkets” in the Czech Republic, these mammoth stores have become as ubiquitous in Central Europe as anywhere in the world since the first were built in 1995. The phenomenon has also sparked the same debates over the globalization of goods and the loss of cultural identity, particularly in a country where most everyone still remembers standing in lines for items taken for granted elsewhere.

Enter students Vit Klusak and Filip Remunda, who conceived of a “film reality show” involving a fortnight of intense media promotion, followed by a public ribbon-cutting ceremony for a store, the Czech Dream, that doesn’t exist. (They do, however, erect a huge facade some distance from the parking lot.) Taking full responsibility for the hoax from the beginning, they seem more interested in watching what grows in their social Petrie dish than actually scamming anybody.

After some grooming, filmmakers look precisely like the stone-faced, dead-eyed managers they pretend to be. Recruiting both a high-end men’s clothing chain and a cutting-edge ad agency to dress them and the idea in the trappings of mass media, they set about building the fantasy. A gaudy flier offers absurdly low prices on everything from TV sets to obviously blotchy bananas, while billboards urge consumers “Don’t go there,” “Don’t spend,” and, of course, “Don’t push.”

Sure enough, this reverse psychology works – to a certain extent. The opening-day crowd, estimated by filmmakers as close to 5,000 but by a local paper as one fifth of that, looks thin in light of pic’s build-up. But it’s here the film turns creepy, as the older victims struggle to cross the field and rail against the hoax.

One of the prank’s best wheezes is its inspirational theme song. Transparently absurd and thus completely believable, the sappy power ballad from composer Hynek Schneider lays it on thick with a breathy female singer and a soothing children’s choir. Lyrics by popular actor and personality Tomas Hanak rival anything penned by Christopher Guest, with priceless couplets such as “It will be a nice big bash/And if you got no cash/Get a loan and scream/”I want to fulfill my dream.”

Tech credits are smooth. Per filmmakers, 11 separate crews were used to cover the opening ceremony.

Czech Dream

Czech Republic

Production: An SPI Intl. release of a Hypermarket Film, Czech TV, Studio Mirage, FAMU production, in association with SPI Intl., Taskovski Films. (International sales: Taskovski Films, London.) Produced by Vit Klusak, Filip Remunda, Filip Cermak. Directed, written by Vit Klusak, Filip Remunda.

Crew: Camera (color), Klusak; editor, Zdenek Marek; music, Hynek Schneider; sound, David Hysek. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (Czech Films 2003-2004), July 6, 2004. (Also in Locarno Film Festival, Filmmakers of the Present.) Running time: 87 MIN.

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