The Big Sell-Out

in 47th International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film

by Lars Tuncay

“How did you spend your day before there were supermarkets?”, director Vit Klusák asks an average customer from the streets. For Czech people the entry of commercialism is still vivid in their short-term memory. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain the western market had a strong impact on the Czech nation, with malls and stores crowding the city of Prague. Czech film students Vit Klusák and Filip Remunda thought that it was time to make a stand against this development. They made up a campaign for the opening of a supermarket, hired market research specialists, advertising experts and consumer analysts, flooded the public with billboards, flyers, tv- and radio-ads. Everything that a typical new megastore chain would do to be recognised. With the difference being that their supermarket `Cesky Sen´ (Czech Dream) never existed. On May 31st 2003 they staged an opening on a field outside Prague, gathering a crowd of about 3000 people hours before the gates were open, cut the ribbon and revealed nothing but a huge sign carrying their logo.

Klusák and Remunda use all the usual and some new tricks to get attention. Their `anti-ads´ with slogans like “Don`t come“ or “Don`t spend“ worked together with unrealistically low prices and massive media attention. In the beginning, they describe their plans in detail, standing in the open field that will soon be the ground of their hoax. But there`s one question they fail to answer: “You are probably asking yourself: Why are we doing this? – We hope, at the end of the film you will know why.“ – and we do. Without any comment, they film people’s reactions and stand to face their anger. But people themselves give the answers discussing the imminent entry of the Czech Republic into the European Union and drawing comparisons with the 60 million crowns their government is spending on the advertising campaign for the decision, which to many is nothing but an empty bubble itself.

With the Czech Republic being flooded by huge stores, called hypermarkets – an amazing 125 of them have been opened in the last five years – and standing in line for goods still in people’s memories, Klusák and Remunda hold up an interesting, controversial mirror on this developement in their homeland as well as a poignant, funny and highly entertaining documentary on how to get into big business.

Lars Tunçay