Playland USA (Germany, 88 minutes)
Directed by: Benjamin Schindler
Written by: Benjamin Schindler, Jan Wilde
Benjamin Schindler’s exceptional documentary PLAYLAND USA takes us on a time travel through the United States as a country of unlimited narratives. It explores the great myths, stories and dreams that contribute to the creation of its identity, both past and present, influenced by the world’s largest entertainment industry. Embedded in allusions to Hollywood movies and other symbols of pop culture, the film bows from the conquest of the New World to the settlement of alien planets, linking past and future, traversing various genres, epochs, and fictitious locations. One by one, a doomsday preacher, a ghost hunter, Santa Claus, an indigenous storyteller, a toothless western lady, a UFO-believing cinema owner, talking dolls lead us through the film. They all seem less concerned with authenticity than upholding the belief in the impossible. Fantasy and magic clash with references to contemporary issues such as racism, populism and gun violence, exposing the mechanisms of global narrative traditions. The boundaries between fact and fiction, dream and madness are becoming increasingly blurred, opening up a new level of reflection of a film in film. The world has awoken from the American Dream - at the latest after reality has been trumped by staged fiction. But when the fiction comes after the dream, where was and is the reality? Through the combination of numerous curious locations of staging and national identity, the film tracks the self-image of a nation as a cinematic fairyland. The film explores it in imposing cinematic images and draws an arc from Noah's Ark to the conquest of foreign planets. A poetic time travel fantasy through the imagined history of the United States as a modern fairyland, along the traces of our desire for illusion and escapism, fatally bound between fact and ﬁction, anticipating the current reality shifts in the US. PLAYLAND USA questions the possibilities and limits of the representation of history and is a self-reﬂection regarding ﬁlm as a medium. The ﬁlm asks essential questions: What is seeing? How do we see the world? And: What is invisible, for us, for others? The ﬁlm draws a line in cinematic images from Noah's Ark to the colonization of Mars, including dinosaurs, Indians, and superheroes, of course. It becomes increasingly clear that Benjamin Schindler has made many "American Dreams" into an "American Nightmare", inscribing quotes of pop culture and Hollywood into a biblical history. When the ﬁlm recounts the shooting at the Batman premiere in Aurora, reality and ﬁction have ﬁnally merged.