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Malls R Us
A Film by Helene Klodawsky
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Combining nostalgia, dazzling architecture, pop culture, economics and politics, MALLS R US examines North America's most popular and profitable suburban destination-the enclosed shopping center-and how for consumers they function as a communal, even ceremonial experience and, for retailers, sites where their idealism, passion and greed merge.

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The film blends archival footage tracing the history of the shopping mall in America, visits to some of the world's largest and most spectacular malls-in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Japan, Poland, France, and Dubai-and interviews with architects, mall developers, sales managers, environmentalists, labor activists and social critics, as well as commentary from mall shoppers themselves.

MALLS R US discusses the psychological appeal of malls to consumers, how architects design their environments to combine consumerism with nature and spectacle, how suburban shopping centers impart social values, how malls are transforming the traditional notions of community, social space and human interaction, and shows nostalgic mall fans who commemorate the closing of older malls on their DeadMalls.com Web site.

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Visiting the construction sites of several of the world's largest shopping centers of the future, in Dubai and India, MALLS R US reveals how their gargantuan growth, both in size and geographical expansion, as virtual cities devoted to tourism, leisure and luxury shopping, threaten small shop owners and the environment.

As entertaining as it is informative, MALLS R US offers a trip to the mall like no other, reveling in their architectural splendor as consumerist paradises but also showing how the social dynamism they represent can be a destructive force, one that confuses the good life with the world of goods.

★★★ “Imaginative... A thoughtful, provocative film, this is recommended.” —F. Swietek, Video Librarian

“Amazing... This is not an environmental movie as much as it is a film about capitalism run wild. It belongs in the enviable company of important docs like The Corporation and Blue Gold.” —thickonline.com

★★★ “Provocative!” —Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun Times

★★★ “Prowls the hallowed, paradoxically light-filled yet claustrophobic temples of commerce and addresses issues of design, socialization, the losers and the winners... an engaging globe-trotter of a doc.” —Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune

“Uncommonly timely... never less than an eyeful... [Klodowsky] has an elegant eye and this strangely beautiful, kaleidoscopic inventory is indelible.” —Ray Pride, New City Film

"Malls R Us" is a powerful reminder as we slide into global economic crisis of how much mass consumption has shaped people's lives and created the public spaces of modern societies, East and West, North and South. This film impresses upon us the folly of our ways, the alternatives we might entertain, but also the difficulties we will face extricating ourselves from a world overly dependent on retail for prosperity and community." —Lizabeth Cohen, author of A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America

“A studious, instructive look at the rapacious creep of mall culture.” —Michelle Orange, The Village Voice

"A fascinating, sumptuously filmed investigation into the history, design, function and future of the shopping mall in modern life. With its global sweep, vintage footage, and searching assessment of the mixed blessings that malls are in our lives, Malls R Us is instant classic-- the documentary you want to see on this subject." — Alex Shoumatoff, contributing editor, Vanity Fair Magazine.

"Wonderful... brought something marvelous and unexpected and new to the subject. As you watch it, its scope broadens and broadens, like a complex film plot. At the end you feel as if you've seen something slightly holy."—Douglas Coupland, author of Generation X and J-Pod

"Fascinating yet ultimately frightening... an elegant, thoughtful documentary which exposes the mindset of mallpreneurs and mall designers, from the time malls were first invented till the present, and the increasingly sophisticated, calculated effects of their manipulations."—Mark Achbar, filmmaker, The Corporation

"A monumental documentary on a global scale, Malls R Us Shows shopping malls to have a tragic and apparently irreversible effect on every dimension of moral and material life. Not only are malls the central symbol of modern auto-industrial society, they are the site of a titanic clash of civilizations and values." — Sharon Zukin, Author, "Point of Purchase: How Shopping Changed American Culture", Professor of Sociology, Brooklyn College and City University Graduate Center

"Malls R Us shows us how shopping malls are the new sacred spaces in which we can experience a secular version of transcendence and communal identity [...] This film shows both the need to which malls respond in the postmodern world and the exploitation of that need by those who most benefit from it. No one who sees this film will look at shopping the same way." — Professor John Lyden
Chair, Religion, Film, and Visual Culture Group, American Academy of Religion


"An exceptional kaleidoscope of views on the effect the mall has had on modernity and on the symbolic nature the mall has as a metaphor for the human experience." — Dwight DeWerth-Pallmeyer, Ph.D. Director of Communication Studies, Widener University

"Malls R Us is a powerful reminder as we slide into global economic crisis of how much mass consumption has shaped people's lives and created the public spaces of modern societies, East and West, North and South. This film impresses upon us the folly of our ways, the alternatives we might entertain, but also the difficulties we will face extricating ourselves from a world overly dependent on retail for prosperity and community." —Lizabeth Cohen, author of A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America

2011 The AIA Architecture and the City Festival (San Francisco)
2009 MoMA New Canadian Films Festival (NYC)
2009 International Festival of Films on Art (Montreal)
  

78 minutes / color
Closed Captioned
Release: 2009
Copyright: 2008
Sale: $398

Subject areas:
American Studies, Architecture, Business, Business and Economics, Closed Captioned, Consumerism, Consumers, Economic Sociology, Geography, Globalization, Sociology, Urban Planning & Design, Urban Studies

Related Links:
"101 Uses for a Deserted Mall" from The New York Times

"Malls Test Experimental Waters to Fill Vacancies" from The New York Times


Related Titles:
Cul de Sac: An allegory for a working class suburb in decline, this film investigates the story of Shawn Nelson, who stole a tank and went on a rampage through the residential streets of Clairemont, CA.

Grand Paris: French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to turn Paris into the model super-metropolis for the 21st century, and plenty of world-class architects would like the job.

Keeping It Real: A philosophical but often comic investigation of the desire for truly "authentic" experiences, and how the new "experience economy" packages and sells them.

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Last Updated March 31, 2013
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