Run, Don’t Walk, to Proxy’s Walk-in Theater


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.

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