All Contained in Void

Shotgun Review

All Contained in Void

By Shotgun Reviews March 7, 2015

Recently screened during its world premiere at the 2015 San Francisco Independent Film Festival (SF Indiefest), All Contained in Void (2014) is a film about underutilized, overlooked spaces. Through interviews, site visits, and historical analysis, local filmmaker Whit Missildine eschews a traditional narrative structure to explore the spaces underneath overpasses and in the shells of abandoned buildings created by the California highway system and urban sprawl. The film does not present any sure conflicts or answers, but rather reveals that these sites add up to a considerable geographic area and suggests maybe this space is wasted, or perhaps just underappreciated.

The film takes short visits into the lives of people who spend time in these ignored places and the variety of lifestyles they encompass. Urban explorers, homeless folk, and guerrilla gardeners welcome the camera into the quiet areas that have been deemed unwanted or undevelopable.

Whit Missildine. All Contained in Void, 2014 (Film still); 52:00. Courtesy of the Artist and Permatemp Corporation.  

The director segments the film’s parts according to how the space is used. The idea of exploration propels this film not solely through the individuals it examines, but also in the format it uses to present ideas. Individual characters do not simply tell their stories about specific sites; each story represents a different use of a site, or what one might consider a negative space. Negative space defines the things adjacent to it; it creates their edges. As a filmmaker, Missildine provides a framework that highlights the ways in which people who use these spaces become part of the solution, while maintaining a distinct position of neutrality. Some cases show thoughtful ways of developing the land, such as the Soma West skate park on Duboce, while others demonstrate value in disuse.

What makes this film is its conversation about a broad idea that is grounded in very specific circumstances. All Contained in Void provokes viewers to think about places we see every day—and often overlook—throughout the Bay Area. As I left the theater, the city around me became unexplored territory, and I found myself inspired by the individuals who acted on their own accord to reclaim space. Street medians became a picture of community action. The film creates a vision of possibility; these spaces are at once a way to find solitude in the urban landscape and reminders of the land’s accessibility and potential. 

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Matt Kelly is an independent writer living in San Francisco.

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