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Utopia, Part 3: The World’s Largest Shopping Mall

  • Fri Jun 21 - Sun Aug 11 2013 • Digital Gallery

San Francisco filmmakers Sam Green and Carrie Lozano examine the fate of the world’s largest shopping mall in this 13-minute tale of capitalist hubris.

The South China Mall outside of Guangzhou in southern China is the world’s largest shopping mall. Built in 2005, it’s more than twice the size of the previous record holder, Minnesota’s Mall of America. The South China Mall was designed as a celebration of middle class consumption and Vegas-like spectacle, featuring a replica of the Arc de Triumph, a Venice plaza and a network of Venice Canals. The mall is often evoked as a symbol of China’s emergence as an economic superpower and its eclipsing of the United States. The reality on the ground, however, is more complex. Four years after it opened, the South China Mall sits virtually empty.

Importing another concept familiar to Americans, South China Mall is considered too big to fail. Employees line up for flag-raising ceremonies and pep talks about “brand building” before marching off to maintain the deserted concourses. If China is the future of the world economy, Utopia, Part 3: The World’s Largest Shopping Mall just may be a startling peek at what’s to come.

Sam Green’s credits include the Academy Award-nominated The Weather Underground and the award-winning documentaries The Rainbow Man, John 3:16, lot 63, grave c, N-Judah 5:30 and Pie Fight ’69. He teaches at the University of San Francisco and the San Francisco Art Institute.

Carrie Lozano is a journalist and documentary filmmaker. She produced and directed an award-winning film about journalist Randy Shilts, Reporter Zero, and produced The Weather Underground. She is currently a post-graduate fellow at the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.