Tis the season at the Mall…

A few years ago, I produced a documentary about the “malling of the planet” called Malls R Us.

Mixing nostalgia, architectural ambition, pop culture and politics, Malls R Us travels from North America, the mall’s origins, to some of its newer hosts- Poland, Japan, India and Dubai.  Along the way, the film meets Dead Mall activists mourning the loss of their crumbling hangouts, Sci-Fi guru Ray Bradbury extolling the virtues of getting lost in a mall, a popular mass uprising against malls by shopkeepers in India, and a church gathering contemplating the sacredness of shopping centers.

Some of the world’s most renowned contemporary retail architects and developers explain how malls are the medium through which the 21st century will rebirth decaying cities, inspire monument building, unite mankind, and even help the planet grow green.  We see Mother Earth – pushed over to make way for the mall – reconfigured in air-conditioned splendor, through babbling fountains, evergreen trees, and glass ceilings. Religious, environmental and labour critics gaze past security cameras onto the shrinking public space, to ask whether community can ever be born out of food courts and superstores.

Directed by Helene Klodawsky, this feature doc was screened in theatres and on TV in the US, Canada and Europe.

When I was a teen in the 70′s, MallsWereMe: food courts, shopping, hanging out. Flash forward 20 years later: my son is 4, it’s a cold Montreal winter’s day. Where are we? The mall. It’s bigger, better; the food seems healthier. There are pony rides. A jungle gym. And, it’s warm.

My son is now 15. I have no real use for the mall… But, it still intrigues me: with all its contradications as a bastion of consumer culture yet the “new town square”. Just ask Ray Bradbury ( Malls R Us).

The inimitable Ira Glass is also intrigued by the Mall. In Scenes from a Mall in This American Life, he meets the people who hang and work at the mall. A fascinating portrait of what brings people to the mall… and the life behind it.  Happy Holidays!


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