Outdoor Film with FFF Collaborator + Filmmaker Malcolm Pullinger
This Friday is the final evening of the PROXY Fall Festival. Our curatorial collaborator Malcolm Pullinger shares his thoughts on outdoor movies, contemporary culture and the themes of this year’s selections.
Why do we love watching movies outdoors?
I’ve heard people claim it’s the modern equivalent of our ancestors gathering around a fire to tell stories, that it’s rooted in some kind of instinctive tribal behavior. I like the sound of that, but I don’t know if it’s true. Personally, I think there’s a sense of wonder and thrill in immersing yourself in the story of a film, while still being surrounded by the world of our every day life. There’s something fun in bringing those two parts of life together in one experience.
Why was the outdoor movie experience ready for reinvention?
There’s been a tectonic shift in the way we discover and watch movies. Going out to the movie theater used to be something we all did fairly regularly. Now, it’s more common for us to curl up with our laptop. This shift means that when we do go to the movies today, the experience is key. It should be special and exciting, a night out that stays with you. Here in San Francisco, outdoor movies have always created that kind of a memorable experience — but we noticed that they were usually designed to be massive events, held in a park, showing a Hollywood classic or a new blockbuster. We thought it would be interesting if we created events designed to showcase smaller, independent films, and create more of a neighborhood feel. It’s a way to bring back some of the intimacy and curiosity of strolling down the street to see what’s playing at your local movie theater. To excite people with a movie they might not otherwise see.
What were your goals in curating the festival?
We wanted to highlight new indie films with bold visions and impressive filmmaking chops — the incredible attention to detail and nuance in “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”, the storytelling uniqueness of “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter”, the low-budget ingenuity in “Turbo Kid”, the strange and fascinating true story in “The Wolfpack”. All of these films are also highly entertaining and engaging, and we knew they’d work well in an outdoor setting. There’s also an homage-to-cinema theme running through all of them. For “Secret Shorts”, we wanted to shine a spotlight on edgier and boundary-pushing visions — new ideas, new techniques, new risks that filmmakers around the world are exploring in their shorter work.
The selected films have sparked some strong opinions. That’s a good thing, right?
I think filmmaking is at its best when it pulls us out of ourselves, and shakes us up a bit. That could mean they surprise us and show us something we’ve never quite seen before. Sometimes it means they challenge a certain expectation we have about what a movie should be. I think when we experience something different it’s an opportunity to look at our own desires and emotions and values, and I think films are a great way to get a new vantage point for a moment. Plus, there’s nothing better than a good post-movie discussion with friends over a beer.