Chinese Dreamland is an upcoming Al Jazeera documentary about a rent-a-foreigner talent agency in Chongqing, China, where foreigners are in demand for events, as they are perceived to add glamour and help create an ‘international’ atmosphere.
“Now it’s true that the price of white people is expensive, but it really raises the class of the place,” entrepreneur Yana tells a potential client in the documentary. “If you truly can’t squeeze out the funds, but you still want to project an international atmosphere, I suggest using black people. And why is this? Black people have very good effects on promotion. They are very attention grabbing and have a very open personality. Yet they’re also very cheap.”
Chinese Dreamland is set during the Chinese property boom, when foreigners are particularly in demand at real estate openings. Yana’s foreigners may never have been on a stage in their native countries, but they are presented as famous entertainers, top models, important businessmen and more at these events in China, where their nationalities are frequently blurred to suit the brief.
“There are many places in China, especially remote places, where the houses are really overvalued,” says Yana. “But they use this trick. They say it’s ‘international;’ they can sell the home for more… As soon as you put a foreigner in front of it, it’s internationalised. It’s no longer some regular house in a remote rural region, built by some random developer. It’s in an internationalised city of the future.”
Almost inevitably, the property boom deflates and buyers realise the international boomtowns they were sold were actually ghost towns. Facing increasing financial pressure, Yana must fight to save her business and aspirations, while having second thoughts on her industry – and the “Chinese dream” in general.
Chinese Dreamland premieres on Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 2000GMT on Witness, Al Jazeera’s observational documentary strand.