The Cesky sen hypermarket: the Czech dream that didn't come true

Photo: Lidove noviny, 2.6.2003, Jan Zatorsky

For the past couple of weeks, advertisements all over Prague have heralded the opening of a new hypermarket called Cesky sen, or the Czech Dream. The opening was advertised for Saturday, May 31, at the fairground in the Prague quarter of Letnany. But while hundreds of people turned up there expecting to discover their dream hypermarket, they didn't find it.

Praguers could hardly miss hearing and seeing the advertisements for Cesky sen in recent weeks. The advertisements in the colours of the rainbow adorned billboards, bus and tram stops and metro stations; they were in magazines and newspapers, and were even broadcast on television. Two hundred thousand flyers were distributed to Prague households promoting the hypermarket and the low prices that it would offer. And a song about it called "Cesky sen" was even recorded.

The advertisements promised a surprise for everyone who came to the opening of Cesky sen on Saturday, May 31, at the Letnany fairgrounds in Prague. And the 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.

It was, in fact, all part of a graduation project by Vit Klusak and Filip Remunda, students from the FAMU film academy in Prague. Their intention was to expose the effects of advertising campaigns on people, and, in co-production with Czech Television, they are a making a feature length documentary film about the project.

On Saturday film crews recorded the visitors who came to Letnany in search of their dream 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. From a stage, Vit Klusak and Filip Remunda explained the project to its unwitting participants - and security guards stood near them, just in case.

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. They financed the project with a grant from the state fund for the support of cinematography, and they will return the money if their film makes a profit.

We can expect to see something more of Cesky sen next year in spring, when Vit Klusak and Filip Remunda's documentary will be released.