by ronan moore
As I’ve grown up, I’ve asked my mom a lot of questions about what she did when she was my age. One thing that was a certified staple of her teen years was going to the mall with friends. Decades ago, malls were the place to be, but evidently, their prominence as social spaces has faded due to the advent of shopping online and other technological advances that have worn down the attractiveness of what malls have to offer. More malls are closing everyday, and thus, stories like the ones found in Jasper Mall are becoming harder and harder to find.
Jasper Mall tells the story of a lot of folks, but the documentary centers around a superintendent/security officer/caretaker named Mike. Mike provides a lot of history around the mall, from its inception and success in the 80’s to its slow but sure quelling of occupants. We also meet many of the storeowners, even as several of them prepare to pack up and leave, knowing that maintaining a future there is not viable. Even so, the mall is not dead. We meet a few of the previously mentioned occupants, like an interracial high school couple and a group of men who gather to play dominoes every afternoon. In a way, at the expense of the mall’s success, the viewer gets to know everyone on camera more intimately.
Thanks to a Q&A session with Bradford Thomason, one of the directors, the audience got to learn more about the ideas behind the making of the documentary and even more about the people featured in the film. Apparently, there was a shoplifiting incident that Mike removed his mic to go take care of, much to the chagrin of Thomason and Brett Whitcomb, the other director. There were moments and places that they hoped to capture, but weren’t able to for one reason or another. In general, it was a delightful experience to be able to learn about this place that used to be enormous; and though its emptiness has grown, there will always be a lot of soul within the walls of this old mall in Jasper, Alabama.
a/perture was delighted to host this film and Q&A for one night only. Thomason also confirmed that physical versions of the film will become available, so keep an eye out for that!