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playing the game 

Wednesday, Sep 25 2013
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In 2010, the first inductees of the Jejune Institute chose to wander into the Institute's headquarters in the Financial District after seeing fliers with tear-off phone numbers advertising "socio re-engineering" courses and products with names like the Human Forcefield or Poly Water. Those not deterred by the organization's cultish qualities became one of 10,000 eventual participants in the now-legendary underground alternative reality phenomenon, a kind of scavenger hunt that used San Francisco as an interactive playground where a multimedia narrative could unfold. As is the nature of something this complex, former participants promise no retrospective retelling can do the game's engineering justice, but that makes Spencer McCall's documentary The Institute an intriguing continuation of the interactive mystery. McCall got his first peek behind the scenes after being hired — almost as mysteriously as if he were a player — to do promotional in-game videos that seemed to be fake commercials or fake informative pieces about the Institute. From there, he got access to more. The film plays out in four acts just like the game, with its participants telling the story for themselves. McCall wasn't a player from beginning to end, nor did he film one person going through the whole game itself, so his documentary becomes yet another platform for the game to exist on, revealing and rattling at the same time.


Oct. 4-9; Sun., Oct. 13; Tue., Oct. 15, 2013

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Neha Talreja

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