This imaginative doc by German director Benjamin Schindler offers an outsider’s perspective on the history of the US and the myth of the American dream. Narratively abstract, it’s held together by an overriding interest in the country’s approach to storytelling and self-mythologising, with a particular focus on historical amusement parks and other “educational” tourist attractions. A picture is formed of a nation built on extreme bloodshed, Christian fundamentalism and indigenous erasure. Highlights include a lucid segment addressing the damaging effect of Hollywood Westerns on the perception of Native Americans, and a mordantly funny scene in which an earnest professional Santa Claus tearfully relates his Dickensian origin story. Such vignettes are interrupted by distorted footage of a rousing Michelle Obama speech, presumably to serve as a chilling reminder of how quickly the tenor of American discourse has recently deteriorated. The result is an engaging, if slightly insubstantial, study of a nation that’s lost its grip on reality.
Playland USA | D: Benjamin Schindler (Germany 2019). Starts Sep 26.
Check our OV search engine for showtimes.