Czech Dream

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4 out of 5 stars
MONEY FOR NOTHING Shoppers buy the lie.
MONEY FOR NOTHING Shoppers buy the lie.

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

The sheer cornucopia of goods in big-box megastores like Target can trigger squeals from even the most jaded of mall rats. So imagine how Czechs—who still remember Soviet control—view their sparkling new “hypermarkets,” 130 of which have been built in the last decade alone. In the spring of 2003, two typically doofusy film students exploited that nouveau-consumerist urge with Czech Dream, less a documentary than a masterful hoax in which they invented a fictional mart, got themselves haircuts and Hugo Boss suits to pose as “managers,” advertised heavily on billboards and ultimately lured thousands of people to an empty field where the threat of retribution hung palpably in the May air.

Naturally, they didn’t think it out much further than that. Nor did they really have to: Czech Dream gains in fascination with each chronological step, revealing both the rigorous process of marketing (the filmmakers employed top firms) as well as a newly capitalized citizenry on the cusp of its first disillusionment. The doc is filled with ethically questionable moments: old people straining with walkers to reach a fake building; a jingle that urges listeners to take out loans and spend wildly; the news that the filmmakers’ project was partially government-funded. But in the post--Morgan Spurlock era of stunt docs, the open-endedness is welcome. (Opens Fri; IFC Center.) — Joshua Rothkopf

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