Dreamland America

Dreamland America

Dutch: Droomland Amerika

The citizens of the United States will elect a new president in November 2016. In this eight-part documentary series Nieuwsuur journalist and former US correspondent Eelco Bosch van Rosenthal travels through the country that Obama leaves to his successor. A country that is changing, but still has the pursuit of happiness at its core. From a Chinese suburb of Los Angeles to the South Side of Chicago, the backlands of the Mississippi Delta to a struggling town in Vermont: in eight very different places in America the filmmakers search for the winners and the losers. In Dreamland America Bosch van Rosenthal explores the unraveling of the American dream, inspired by the acclaimed book by George Packer ‘The Unwinding “. In the past decades Americans have seen many certainties disappear: their representatives turned out not to serve their constituents, a job was no longer a job for life. For the first time people are saying that their children will not fare better than themselves. Yet time and time again Americans show great resilience. How do they do it?


Episode 1: The Promise
‘Here in Youngstown. My sweet Jenny I’m sinkin ‘down’, Bruce Springsteen sings in his eponymous lament about this industrial town in the rust area of the United States, the Rust Belt. It used to have a prosperous steel industry, but since its collapse the depleted community is under immense pressure. Those that remain are trying to keep their heads above water. Some of them only see one remedy: Donald Trump. Trump’s victory in November will depend on his success in places like Youngstown.

Episode 2: Chinatown
For the Chinese the United States still are the Promised Land. In a small prosperous town just outside Los Angeles called Arcadia citizens see their predominantly white neighbourhood slowly changing into a Chinese one. An American couple accepts the situation and prepares their children for a Chinese future. In the meantime, pregnant Chinese women come to California to give birth there. This new cosmopolite is an American: the dream still exists.

Episode 3: Chiraq
The South Side of Chicago is a predominantly black district and one of the most dangerous places in the United States. This year alone, gang violence took the lives of hundreds of young black men. Through the so-called school-to-prison-pipeline many young men drift directly into the prison system. But Chicago also has a long history of police violence against black people. The protest group Black Lives Matter tries to turn the tide, just like dozens of other social activists, who are trying to get the South Side back on its feet.

Episode 4: No-man’s Land
Migrants from South America pay traffickers thousands of dollars to cross the Rio Grande River. When they arrive at the southernmost point of Texas, they hide in the shadows. The open border is not the only reason for the citizens of the Rio Grande Valley to feel abandoned by the government. There’s a lot of corruption and the local police have their hands full with drug violence.

Episode 5: The Deep South
High blood pressure, diabetes and other health issues are characteristic for the poorest residents of Mississippi. The new Affordable Care Act of Obama, known as Obamacare, hasn’t changed a lot for the inhabitants of the most diseased state in the United States. The history of racism in Mississippi has left some deep scars: most of the black citizens are reluctant to visit white aid workers. An Iranian doctor provides hope.

Episode 6: Silicon Valley
There’s no place in America where you can rise faster than Silicon Valley. But in the rat race to the top, some people stay behind. Nowhere the gap between rich and poor is as wide as in Silicon Valley. In a short period of time, a former teacher of Stanford University lost his house and job. The community keeps his family on their feet. The Spanish residents of the Buena Vista trailer park fear they have to make room for expensive apartments built for the tech industry.

Episode 7: The Curse
The small town of Vermont with its organic farming and serene views is a perfect example of picturesque, rural America. But behind this façade, a devastating drug epidemic is going on. In Rutland every citizen seems to have been personally affected. For once Rutland decided not to choose for the classical American approach of arrest and detention to deal with the drug problem, but looked for possibilities in another direction. It turns out that it works: the community as a collective rehab centre.

Episode 8: The System
Is America still a functioning democracy? Most Americans are no longer convinced. This election year the successes of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders made clear how strong the revulsion against the political system is. A system that’s complying more and more with companies and groups of interest and less and less with the public. American progressives have lost their patience: they decided to make their voices heard in Washington.


Directed by: Hans Pool
Director of Photography: Hans Pool
Presentation by: Eelco Bosch van Rosenthal
Produced by: Submarine in co-production with VPRO


Length: 8 x 43 min

September 11, 18, 25
October 2, 9, 16, 23, 30