We’ve all loved ‘the mall’ at one time in our life. They’re so shiny, new, and full of presents. How can a young mind not fall in love with such an exciting environment?
Many of us have become disenchanted with ‘the mall’ as well. They’re disgustingly shiny and new, and full of worthless presents. What a gorging environment.
Love them, or hate them, malls are everywhere. North America is over-saturated with the staple suburban mall. The developing world is now getting a taste of western consumerism and shopping is a long held “good reason” for international travel.
Malls r Us, a film by Canadian filmmaker Helene Klodawsky, is a documentary about our sacred shopping spaces and the people who feel passionate about them.
“As a pre-teen, I visited the mall every week, it was an exciting place for young people to feel free on this great expanse of possibility,” said Klodawsky. “As I grew up I became much more aware of their dark side, so I came into this project with a critical point of view. I thought it was important to hear from those who love malls, and are building and promoting their expansion.”
Malls r Us certainly has a variety of characters. From mall tycoons to mall rats, consumer poster-girls to threatened family merchants, everybody seems affected.
“The film entertains the passions we have to our malls, whether we love or despise them,” said Klodawsky. “You could see the mall as monuments of our culture, what’s interesting is where we position ourselves around this.”
“The film attempts to respect people who like the mall, while taking them along for a more critical ride,” said Klodawsky “We need to take notice of the places we’ve grown up with, what they mean, even now as many are fading.”
By “fading,” Klodawsky is referring to the hundreds of abandoned malls across North America. One group featured in the film are the devout mall rats of deadmalls.com, who have set up a site to honour and expose the dead malls of America’s childhood.
Many seniors love the mall as well. In a scene almost sad to the point of tears, a group of seniors roam the near-empty corridors of their local and now dying mall. They say they have nowhere else to go.
The people in Malls r Us prove one thing: malls are sacred. They offer guidance for the lost. They offer sanctuary from the outdoors. They help us define ourselves and find meaning in our life. Even their ceilings are vaulted. But they are also replacing the public space and the town square, as well as commodifying our leisure time.
“I hope the film encourages people to wonder, is there a place for malls that will benefit our communities?” said Klodawsky, “We have to ask ourselves, how do we want our cities to look, and what kind of retail developments should we encourage? For the last 70 years innumerable malls have been built while citizens have been asleep at the wheel. It was so refreshing to go to India where people are actually protesting and debating mall development.”
Old malls are dying, but new ‘lifestyle malls’ are sprouting up in place. The face of consumerism and the way we buy is adapting to our every desire. Malls are going ‘green’, but Klodawsky warns that we have to be skeptical about what ‘green’ means. Will India be any greener as it’s ‘mallscape’ expands to cater for one billion people? Are communities better off if anchored by a corporate-consumer core?
Malls r Us will make you wonder what encompassing new forms consumerism will take in the future, and whether the mall as we know it is merely its infantile stage.
Malls r Us screens right after Debt Trap at Cinema Politica on April 14th, at 7:30 pm in H-110. Both film’s directors will be there for questions.