Tuesday, June 03, 2003

OK, am I the only one who thought the "Cesky sen" ("Czech Dream") hoax, in which two FAMU students duped the entire Czech nation into traveling out into the middle of a field in Letòany for the grand opening of a non-existent hypermarket, was just a little bit -- hm, how does one put it -- mean?

Call me a wet blanket, but suckering hundreds (or thousands, by some count) of improverished pensioners into a two-hour bus ride with promises of a two-crown savings on root vegetables only to tell them it was all a joke (and then filming their indignant reponses for a forthcoming documentary) doesn't sound like my idea of a good time. (After receiving advance word that it was a hoax, some friends traveled out to watch the show. I stayed in bed.)

Granted, most of the people that turned up were probably horrible, mean-spirited misanthropes who had it coming to them, like that old lady at the bathroom at Troja chateau who yelled out me for wanting to take a pee after 5pm (when the bathroom closes, of course).

[T]he hundreds that came throughout the day were indeed surprised. What from afar looked like the wall of the Cesky sen hypermarket painted in the bright colours of the advertisements was, actually, just a long billboard. There was no grocery store there, let alone a hypermarket.
Many were, of course, annoyed that they had been duped; they cursed the students, and a group of youths threw rocks at the billboard. ... In Monday's edition of the daily newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes, the students said that they weren't afraid of manipulating the emotions and expectations of people, as they did just the same thing that advertising does.
I see the point, but this strikes me as rather cynical. If advertising makes blatantly fraudulant claims, there's at least the possibility of legal recourse. (The Czech hypermarket phenomenon is really something, though. Jan Svìrák will take a swipe in his next film.)

UPDATE (June 4): Peter at Daily Czech has a bit less sympathy for the suckers than I do. To say the least.

The cost of the advertising campaign -- which consisted of TV, outdoor and direct mail, even including its own jingle -- is not stated in the article, but it must have been enormous, since media owners would be unlikely to co-sponsor such a project. These kids got their money from the Ministry of Culture's State Fund for the Support of Czech Cinematography. The irony is that I wrote an article last week on the Czech film scene for Screen, in which I quoted a local producer lamenting the fact that funds are drying up for Czech cinema, leading to a large number of foreign co-productions this year. (Co-productions are a good thing; it saves Czechs from the navel-gazing narcissism that all too often infects domestic cinema.)

Before you start yapping about the "Czech taxpayers" funding such nonsense, note that this fund -- which along with Czech Television is virtually the only local source of cash for filmmakers -- is financed primarily by the sale of old Czech movies (plus a one-crown tax on cinema tickets). This revenue stream is slowly turning to a trickle as the years go on.


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