Screened as part of NZIFF 2017
Chongqing’s property boom lures 24-year-old Yana with the promise of wealth and privilege. She opens an agency to provide Chinese real estate developers with ‘white monkeys’ – foreigners who attend openings, dressed in miscellaneous national costumes to create an air of festivity, sophistication and prosperity around developments that more often than not remain tragically unoccupied. Yana struggles to reconcile this ruthless absurdity with her rural roots. Danish documentarian David Borenstein, a seasoned ‘white monkey’ himself, mixes an insider’s view and an outsider’s perspective on the biggest building boom in human history.
“Despite all the duplicity and unpleasantness beneath the gleaming surface of China’s economic miracle, much of the documentary maintains a levelheaded approach as Borenstein learns the intricacies of the property boom on the fly. But as the filmmaker reaches a point where he can no longer rationalize taking any more ‘white monkey’ gigs, Dream Empire delivers a focused critique of how this system has created so many layers of artifice that authenticity is now in perilously short supply.” — John Berra, V Cinema