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Synopsis - Technical Data - Essay on Global Shopping Village

 

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Synopsis

Global Shopping Village accompanies a shopping center developer and his industry colleagues. You plan and implement shopping centers. We watch them at work, get to know their strategies and follow them into the intertwined networks of international capital. But their actions are not without consequences. At three representative locations in Austria, Germany and Croatia, critics and industry insiders guide us through the diverse effects: We visit a city that has lost its function, see the blossoms of boom and bubble and experience how resistance is gradually beginning to form.
This Austrian documentary (a production by Golden Girls Filmproduktion) shows that the real estate industry not only has an impact on the global financial system, but that it is also dramatically changing our cities and the world we live in.

Technical specifications

Length: 80 min.
Original language: German, Croatian, English
Subtitles: German, English, French
Original format: HD
Presentation format: BluRay, DCP, 16: 9
Sound format: SRD 5.1; stereo
Filming locations: Vienna, Cannes, Munich, Zagreb, Styria, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Düsseldorf, Bulgaria
Shooting time: 2012 - 2013
Completion: March 2014

A production of
Golden Girls Filmproduktion & Filmservices GmbH and Nukleus Film

 

Distribution Austria

 

With the support of

 

 

 

Last exit shopping frenzy

an essay by Helmut Neundlinger on Global Shopping Village

Shopping centers spoil the landscape, ruin established urban structures and destroy jobs. In case of doubt, politics promotes the destructive excesses with exceptions. The Austrian documentary “Global Shopping Village” sheds light on the global causes of the phenomenon as well as its local effects.

Shopping centers and retail parks are ubiquitous in Austria. In addition to the bacon belt settlements, they form the defining architectural element at the interface between localities and landscapes. The agglomerations of electrical stores, furniture stores, fashion chains and auto accessory stores often spread for miles along thoroughfares and town entrances. They have grandiose names like "Arena" or "Paradise". Their architectural design appears interchangeable, and the associated parking lot is oversized. Your preferred location: fallow green spaces or former factory sites on the outskirts of small and medium-sized towns. Your program: the most convenient and recreational organization of consumption.

“I had a decisive experience in the mid-1990s,” says Austrian filmmaker Ulli Gladik, who was born in 1970. “I was in the USA for a few weeks and saw the endless rows of shopping malls on the outskirts of the cities with my own eyes.” Shortly after her return to Austria, she developed in her home town, Murau in Styria true, which fatally reminded her of her impressions from America: On the outskirts, a retail park began to expand at breakneck speed. "Murau has a pretty old town and actually had an intact small-town life," says Gladik. It was over now: Within just five years, the old town was rapidly dying out. The city was surrounded by roundabouts and was more reminiscent of Vösendorf with its South Shopping Center than of a grown small town with an independent character.

The viral growth of shopping centers spread not only in Murau, but across Europe. “The shopping center area in Europe has tripled to 160 million m2 in the last 20 years. This area corresponds to the national territory of Liechtenstein. ”With this sober information, the documentary“ Global Shopping Village ”begins, in which Ulli Gladik got to the bottom of the discomfort that had afflicted her in the 1990s as a result of the ruthless commercial development of Murau .

“I just wanted to know what was behind this building craze,” says Gladik, who describes herself as a “career changer” in the domestic documentary film scene. Her artistic career began in 1995 when she completed a one-year study of photography at the photo school of the artist and psychoanalyst Friedl Kubelka in Vienna. After completing her art studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, she also got access to the use of a video camera and took courses in editing techniques. After initially experimental approaches, Gladik developed an increasing interest in documentaries. For her first short documentary, “Drei cents” (2004), she accompanied garbage collectors in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, where she had spent a year of study. Finally, “Natasha” (2008), the portrait of a Bulgarian beggar whom Gladik met in Graz, received international attention. The film paints a multi-layered picture of the struggle for survival on the social fringes, beyond the clichéd images of the “begging mafia” spread across the media.

Gladik's new film “Global Shopping Village” consistently continues the cinematic approach of “Natasha”. As in her first larger work, she creates the narrative-investigative pull by means of a method that she herself calls “creating a natural closeness to conversation”. The camera often comes very close to the person you are talking to, but without being disfiguring or overbearing. The closeness to the counterpart developed in long preliminary discussions means that the interviewees speak about their work and life with great openness and personal presence. This resulted in the extraordinary kaleidoscope of the industry that is responsible for the planning, construction and maintenance of shopping centers in “Global Shopping Village”.

The filmmaker is initially on the heels of a so-called “shopping center developer”. It is true that it has not yet been possible to study this profession at a university of applied sciences, but with the appropriate persistence and networking it can be pursued with an exquisite return. The habitus of the male tinkerer is striking, as he unconditionally projects his fantasies of a beautiful new world of shopping onto the landscape. When, for example, the Lower Austrian developer Thomas Kronsteiner, a former football goalkeeper and currently chairman of the second division club SV Horn, drives his car through the Weinviertel region, he points out the window with great excitement: “There is a place of power nearby. I would like to be able to build my centers without restrictions in such prominent places, which have given people something for centuries. "

On the basis of individual actors, Gladik unfolds a research of global proportions that starts in the Weinviertel and leads to Germany, France, Croatia and Bulgaria. The explosiveness of her recordings is due not least to the point in time when she started working on her film: It was the time after the great financial crisis in autumn 2008, when the hangover mood spread in the shopping center industry, which had been booming until then. In the wake of this licking wound, “Global Shopping Village” becomes the moral image of a world in which the manic-depressive cycles of financial capitalism emerge seismographically. “Before 2008, money was practically on the streets in Eastern Europe,” explains Thomas Kronsteiner, who was then working in Romania. “The investment pressure on the financial market was so great that the investment funds didn't even ask what the money was used for.” Quite a few invested it in the construction of shopping centers - and their success initially deceptively proved them to be right. At least until the industry flopped in the wake of the aftershocks of autumn 2008.

It all started almost exactly 40 years earlier, in 1968. At that time, a German architect named Walter Brune was commissioned to design a shopping center on the outskirts of Mülheim an der Ruhr. Brune, who has professional experience in the USA, went to work with great enthusiasm, as he reports in the film. His building called “RheinRuhrZentrum”, which was completed in 1973, was also a resounding success - albeit with devastating consequences for the city center. The business people who were lured with cheaper rents and larger space were finally followed by the city-center residents into the shopping center. "When I saw that, I knew: I had destroyed a city by tearing out its soul and heart," explains the architect. The 88-year-old, who has long since been converted from Saul to Paul, is still an ardent fighter against his own architectural legacy. However, even he could not prevent his “RheinRuhrZentrum” from becoming, so to speak, a prototype for a development that had covered large parts of Western Europe since the 1980s and expanded to Eastern and Southeastern Europe after the turn of the millennium.

Politicians would certainly have opportunities to counter the fatal developments. At least in this country, those responsible are through spatial and trade regulations de jure obligated to a zoning under not only purely commercial, but also non-profit aspects. One of the bitterest findings of Ulli Gladik's film research is that the competent authorities de facto fail too often. This becomes particularly clear in one of the main locations of the “Global Shopping Village”, the “Arena Fohnsdorf”, which opened in 2000 in the Styrian district of Murtal. The area originally approved for only 5,000 m2 of contiguous shopping center space has now expanded to almost 50,000 m2 of retail space and continues to grow lively.

Here Gladik meets the activist Silvia Hartleb, a coffee house owner in Zeltweg, which, together with Fohnsdorf, Judenburg, Knittelfeld and a few smaller villages, forms a catchment area of ​​around 70,000 residents.

Hartleb founded the association “Raumordnung Steiermark” in order to fight against the expansion of shopping center space on fallow green spaces. She regularly confronts both community representatives and state politicians with the consequences and excesses of the development. There is enough need for explanation on the part of politicians: Apart from the consistent repeal of the current legal situation, the promise of an increase in jobs through the arena has not been fulfilled either. The 700 jobs created there, 70% of which turn out to be part-time jobs on closer inspection, are offset by 90 full-time jobs lost in Judenburg alone in the years 2000 to 2005. If you take all the communities in the Murtal region together, it can be estimated that significantly more jobs have been destroyed than have been created since the center was founded.

The successive erosion of the cities is not limited to the death of the retail trade, but affects the entire social and cultural dynamic. Gladik's documentary shows this development in drastic images: While the streets of the inner city of Judenburg, which is worth seeing in and of itself, are orphaned, young and old cavort in the parking lot of the Fohnsdorfer Arena at folk festivals. The manager of the shopping center proudly says that young people want apartments on the premises of the shopping center via Facebook. "We only have a chance against the Internet as the largest competitor if we remain the meeting point for people where communication takes place," he says. Then he reveals his great vision: the construction of a parking deck on the roof of which theater and “multicultural” events are to take place. Significantly, other shopping center developers have recently started to give their centers pseudo-small-town facades in order to compensate for the lack of flair, at least superficially.

In view of the migration tendencies from rural regions due to the dwindling of jobs, the question arises as to where the purchasing power will come from in the future, on which the continued operation of the shopping center is dependent. The film “Global Shopping Village” carefully works out the destructive mechanisms of the money that stimulates local markets within a short period of time, but just as quickly overheats and burns up. In Zagreb, for example, Gladik comes across the “King Cross” shopping center, which is almost completely empty. In order to counteract the depressing image, at least visually, the director Renata Vlasic Novakovic came up with the original idea of ​​papering the yawning empty displays with huge feelgood posters. Happy people smile down from these oversized photo wallpapers and are flanked by sayings like the following: “All dreams can come true if you have the courage to make them come true.” With a pained smile, Vlasic Novakovic tells of the “happy days” of Croatian Buying frenzy: “The banks freely granted credits and loans. People were spending more than they had. ”Incidentally, a shopping center developer from Turkey, one of the current promising markets in the industry, formulates this almost word for word. Around 50% of all purchases in Turkey are made with credit cards, he says with a beaming smile: “The peolpe keep spending their future income!” Needless to say, banks play a major role as investors in the shopping center business. The caravan moves on, leaving behind scorched earth.

In the end, what remains are inner cities on the one hand, which have been sanded down to no less ghostly wrecks due to the withdrawal of purchasing power, and on the other hand the ruins of the systemic madness in the form of vacancies. For Ulli Gladik, after the filming is finished, the question arises what should happen to the run-down shopping malls: “How can we use it in the future so that people benefit from it? A shopping center was closed in Bucharest and there is a rumor that it will now be turned into a hospital. "