During the height of China's gigantic housing boom, David Borenstein spent five years in Chengdu, a Chinese municipality with 14 million residents. A result of his stay is Chinese Dreamland, a documentary providing insight into a grotesque aspect of the Chinese real estate market and a looming housing bubble.
The film follows Yana, a young energetic entrepreneur who organises deceptive spectacles to help officials promote overpriced property developments. For a few hours she can turn remote ghost towns into surreal, globalised cities buzzing with her team of colourful foreigners posing as celebrities, entrepreneurs, important businessmen, diplomats, models and much more.
Yana's work offers an intriguing perspective on growth-obsessed China, and we follow her from humble beginnings to the very top of the "city image" industry. But soon the illusion of the never-ending building boom starts to crumble, and Yana must fight to save her business and aspirations amidst the country's economic downturn. Ultimately, she comes to doubt her industry as well as the collective dream of eternal prosperity.
Chinese Dreamland is produced by Jesper Jack for House of Real as a gradual release in various formats. The project came out as an Op-Doc, New York Times' forum for short, opinionated documentaries, in spring 2015, and as one-hour versions on Al Jazeera.com and WDR/Arte available from this fall. A feature-length version of Chinese Dreamland will be ready for broad distribution in early 2016.