Friday, June 03, 2005
Hoax movie that horrified a nation
Telegraph: "Two Czechs conned thousands with an anti-consumerist prank. Chris Sullivan met them
It's unusual for a small document ary to stir up national outrage, but that's just what happened with Czech Dream, released in the UK later this month. The film provoked more than 195 articles in the Czech press, spawned intense governmental debate and made stars of its creators.
Consumerism's 'manipulative powers': shoppers race towards an imaginary supermarket in Czech Dream
The reason for the outrage is that it documents what is essentially an anti-capitalist hoax. The two filmmakers, Filip Remunda and Vit Klusak, explore what they call 'the manipulative powers of consumerism' by creating an ad campaign for a hypermarket that doesn't actually exist.
In a climactic scene, we see 4,000 people turn up for the store opening in a meadow on the outskirts of Prague. The crowd run to claim the bargains they have been promised, only to discover that behind the hoarding labelled 'Czech Dream - the Hypermarket for a better life!' there is just an empty field.
The filmmakers claim that what might seem a heartless prank is in fact an exposé of the workings of consumerism.
'Since the fall of communism, hypermarkets have been growing like mushrooms in my country,' says the exasperated Remunda. 'Some 125 have been built in the past five years, and 40 per cent of the Czech population shop exclusively in shopping malls. New terms such as 'hypermarketomania' have been invented. We wanted to take a stab at the consumerist ethic and confront the attitudes of the 'manipulators' who cause this fascination with the opinions of the 'manipulated'.'
The project began with a £22,000 grant from the government and a co-production deal from Czech TV. The resulting documentary tracks Remunda and Klusak as they solicit the help of a renowned advertising agency for free, accept Hugo Boss suits for nothing and enjoy a complimentary photo session.
Remunda makes the point that the firms involved were complicit in the deception. 'Even though we intended to offer a product that did not exist, create a misleading ad campaign, betray thousands of people and produce an almost inhuman scandal, the companies still wanted to be involved - just as long as they were guaranteed media coverage.'
Exposing the inner machinations of an ad campaign, the film takes us through the making of the TV commercial, the design of the fake products and the recording of the theme song, all of which make it to TV, radio, periodicals and billboards. With no budget to pay for any of this, the filmmakers instead offered screen credits to the companies.
After two weeks of an advertising blitzkrieg, the opening day dawns and the directors seem noticeably concerned about the project's potential dangers.
'Army experts on crowd behaviour had warned us that the crowd would go crazy,' admits Remunda. 'But as it turned out, nothing happened. There were even people who came to thank us, saying that for the first time in a long while they spent their Saturday in a field instead of among supermarket shelves.'
Remunda says that he and Klusak are selling the concept of Czech Dream for further adaptation. 'It might be for the American Dream, Russian Dream and maybe in the far away future even the British Dream.' You have been warned.
'Czech Dream' opens on June 24."
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