Montreal-based director Helene Klodawsky had the privilege of presenting the US premiere of her feature documentary Malls R Us at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. As part of the ‘Canadian Front 2009′ screenings – an annual showcase of Canadian cinema – Klodawsky’s film had two well-attended screenings on March 21 and 23.
Klodawsky says that people have responded so well to the film because ‘people seem to have their own particular strong emotions towards malls, whether they grew up and visited the mall every weekend or they hate malls – everyone has a particular story so it feels familiar.’
The Canadian-French coproduction, produced by Instinct Films’ Ina Fichman and Point du jour’s Luc Martin-Gousset and distributed by New York-based Icarus Films, was selected by Laurence Kardish, senior curator of MoMA’s department of film, after he was intrigued by the movie’s title and gave it a five-minute viewing. Klodawsky says that Kardish liked what he saw, and he added the film to the showcase of eight features, presented in association with Telefilm Canada.
Also attending the screenings were the founders of deadmalls.com, a site for those nostalgic for older malls that have since closed.
Klodawsky previously worked with Fichman on her 2002 documentary, Undying Love, and had heard that the producer wanted to do a documentary on the subject of urban and suburban shopping centers and was looking for a director.
From there, filming took the crew all over North America, Europe, Poland, Japan, India and Dubai to find shopping mall enthusiasts, mall developers and anti-mall activists. In the case of India, Klodawsky says, ‘I was looking for one example of a place where there was resistance to malls coming in. That’s not an easy task, to find these pockets that are articulated and [where] there’s a collective presence… devoted to questioning malls.’
Malls R Us also boasts an impressive list of characters, including John Jerde, one of the world’s most respected mall architects and surprisingly, science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, who has created malls with Jerde.
The director has learned one lesson through the process of making the film. ‘Malls are a little like high-security prisons in terms of the clearances that you need,’ she says. ‘It’s virtually impossible to go into a mall with a camera and start shooting.’ Thankfully they had connections with Jerde, Bradbury and other architects and developers.