Events | Screening and Conversation: PLAYLAND USA

Villa Aurora | December 15, 2021 | 7:30 PM (PT)

A poetic time travel fantasy through the imagined history of the United States as a modern fairyland, along the traces of our desire for illusion and escapism – fatally bound between fact and fiction, anticipating the current reality shifts in the US.

Benjamin Schindler’s documentary PLAYLAND USA is a fascinating journey to a familiar, but unknown, country in which the lines between fact and fiction, past and present, and dreams and real states of experience are blurred. A journey into the collective memory of collapsing societies. A journey into the post-truth era.

PLAYLAND USA shines a light onto the continuing loss of of touch with reality in the US. The States export entertainment worldwide; how are they shaped by their own stories? Scenes of fantasy and magic collide with references to current issues like racism, populism and gun violence. Intense images and sound frames create an associative movie from the conquest of the new world to the settlement of foreign planets.

Schindler takes a wide perspective to capture the extent of fictional manifestations and uses close-ups to give the floor to those who’ve chosen to call surreality home: a doomsday preacher, a ghost hunter, a Santa Claus, an indigenous storyteller, a toothless Western reenacter and a cinema owner who believes in UFOs. All caught between reality and fiction; witnesses of the characteristic alienation of our time.

What the film captures here, using America as an example, has universal qualities and also serves as a basis for examining Europe. The mythical, fairytale, and made up is seductive, but what happens when it creeps into politics and becomes a lie. PLAYLAND USA collects many fascinating extremes, but in the end it delivers consciousness. A consciousness to look at your own being in the world from a new perspective: “Maybe we live in a movie now.”


Benjamin Schindler discovered visual storytelling by running an arthouse cinema, as a projectionist, photographer, and painter. From 2005 to 2006 he operated the student cinema Kino im Kasten and established the ensemble shortfilmlivemusic, which shows documentary film concerts worldwide. From 2006 to 2012 he studied at Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln: media arts, film, and hybrid forms. He works as cinematographer and director and has executed numerous short films and documentaries. He has shot in India, Gambia, Spain, Great Britain, Taiwan, and in the US. In his documentaries he deals with real and (self-)constructed worlds, societal quests for identity, and the influence of virtual realities on our actualities. He produces his films for the screen, but they have also been shown at festivals, on TV, and as installations for exhibitions.

Prof. Dr. Heike Paul was born in Koblenz in 1968. From 1987 to 1994, she studied American Studies, Political Science, and English Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt and at the University of Washington, Seattle. After her master’s degree, she obtained her doctorate in the context of the research training group “Gender Difference and Literature” at LMU Munich and subsequently worked as a postdoc and assistant professor at Leipzig University, where she earned her postgraduate degree (Dr. phil. Habil.) in 2004. In the same year, she was appointed chair of American Studies at Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg.  Her research in cultural studies focuses especially on forms and functions of the sentimental (Global Sentimentality Project) and on dimensions of tacit knowledge. Heike Paul is a member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities and director of the Bavarian American Academy, in which she is deeply committed to transatlantic networking.

Villa Aurora
520 Paseo Miramar
Los Angeles, CA 90272
Admission is free
RSVP mandatory via 310.454-4231 or this form.

Street Parking is available on Los Liones Drive. Shuttle service starts at 6:30 pm from Los Liones Drive, off Sunset Boulevard two blocks North East of Pacific Coast Highway. Please do not park on the Topanga State Park Lot!

RSVP and Masks are required. Please bring one of the following documents required for admittance: Proof of Vaccination OR Proof of Immunity OR Proof of a Negative COVID Test performed no earlier than 48 hours prior to event.

Go back