Free film Fridays for all! Last week, PROXY’s Walk-in Theater hosted a cozy public showing of Laura Poitras’ “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” as the second night of their 2023 PROXY Spring Series of free film showings. On the corner of Octavia Boulevard and Hayes Street, audience mem-bers settled into their makeshift seats, grabbed scoops of San Francisco’s Hometown Creamery ice cream or Bobcha’s Korean-fusion burritos, and prepared for the movie. Some constructed their own little blanket islands and lounge chair loveseats, while others chose to sit at the provided wooden picnic benches which acted as the back rows. Wrapped in beanies, puffer jackets, and blankets, audience members huddled close to those they knew. Across the street, parklets wrapped in warm string lights added to the movie’s Ambience.
PROXY SF is a reclamation of public space and an 11 year labor of love. PROXY Founder Douglas Bernham describes the project as, “a way to activate vacant lots in San Francisco in Hayes Valley, which is where the freeway used to be.” After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the Central Freeway that cut through Hayes Valley was not structurally sound enough to remain in use. The absence of the highway left space in San Francisco for PROXY to lease in 2012. “The reason we call it PROXY is that it is essentially a stand-in or a placeholder for what will eventually probably be housing,” Bernham said. “They’re sitting in a lot but the city hasn’t figured out how to get housing on those lots.”
Last week’s showing, “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” follows the life and legacy of photographer activist Nan Goldin, who rose to fame through her photographs of white queer life in 1970s and ‘80s New York City. Goldin uses her artistic clout to protest high-profile museums that accept donations from the Sackler family, the owners of pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma that is connected to the opioid epidemic. She repurposes advocacy and activism tools from the Act Up movement to stage“die-ins” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), scatter fake prescriptions over the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and chuck orange pill bottles into the fountains outside the Louvre. The film shows a deeply provocative time dripping in thrifted glamor, drug-filled creativity, and sex halted by the AIDS/HIV epidemic.
If you missed last Friday’s fascinating showing, don’t worry, you have a few more Fridays to join in on the other film screenings. PROXY uses the space to hold film festivals in the fall and spring, and has three more showings for the spring series. Berham expressed excitement for the April 7 showing of Sky Hopinka’s “małni — towards the ocean, towards the shore.” It’s the first time PROXY will show an Indigenous filmmaker. “We basically show films that we think people should see, films that we think are important or whose stories or the voices of the directors really should be heard,” Burn-ham said. The showing will include a Q&A with Hopinka. The other spring films are Chinonye Chukwa’s “Till” and Dean Fleischer’s “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.”
Community member Lorine Benjamin saw Jordan Peele’s 2022 “Nope” with a friend a couple of weeks back and enjoyed her PROXY experience. “I don’t really stream too much with people. I would just watch something at home by myself. So it’s more of a social thing to see a movie either at the theater or movie night in the park is always fun,” she said. Her night showing was chilly, but Lorine didn’t seem to mind. “We’re San Franciscans so we’re used to it. So we had the beanies and the jackets and the blankets so we were kind of expecting it to be cold,” she said.
If PROXY seems like your next Friday night destination, consider signing up for their themed newsletters. Each one fits the vibe of the next show-ing and has an associated playlist.
Tickets can be reserved at http://proxysf.net/events