Architecture-affiliated film addresses the power of memory through community

June 27, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — James Kalsbeek, Penn State professor of architecture in the Stuckeman School, has joined forces with a Brooklyn-based film crew to create a film about storytelling, loss and memory. "The Molok," an independent film and art project that collects and archives the cherished objects and stories of its audience, begins filming in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania, on July 1 and continues through Arts Festival weekend with community events being hosted at The Workshop, a collaborative space for experimental art, design and performance that Kalsbeek founded in Centre Hall to host projects like "The Molok."

“It’s a story about the demolition and resurrection of a community,” explained Kalsbeek, whose research is rooted in memory and architecture.

The film features a character, Molok, from another realm, who feeds on memories attached to meaningful possessions. Molok is a kinetic sculpture, commissioned by director Sam T. Wilson and executive producer Xander Chauncey, the co-creators of the film and character, and constructed by Penn State School of Visual Arts alumna artist Annalisa Barron, who graduated in 2013. The team has collected items and their respective stories from donors across the globe, literally building "The Molok" from audience participation in order to create an immersive experience and foster a new community in the process.

“It’s been an inspiring experience watching so many communities and individuals band together to not only build this puppet, but help us create the film!” noted producer Nancy Pop.

The team relied upon crowdfunding through Indiegogo to launch the project, and then gained fiscal sponsorship from the New York Foundation for the Arts and From the Heart Productions. Wilson and Chauncey will acknowledge their supporters by listing them in the film credits as contributors, producers and other types of participants, showcasing the film as a community-based project rather than a studio product. 

In addition, Kalsbeek has enlisted local organizations and individuals to contribute in various ways, including catering, housing, transportation and facilities. Several local college students and Penn State alumni also have agreed to work as production assistants on the film.

Along with Kalsbeek, who is the film’s location manager and architect, and his supporters, the team includes Emmy Award-winning lighting designer Bill Diamond, Broadway star Tom Hewitt, puppeteer Leah Hofmann, sound artist Harold Taddy, cinematographer Edna Biesold and set designer/puppeteer Laurencio Carlos Ruiz.

"The Molok" project will continue as an online archive, a book, a touring art installation and eventually, a feature-length film. People will have a chance to view and experience all of the stories that were collected to bring this creature to life on- and off-screen.

For more information about the film, and event programming, visit or follow on Instagram @themolok.

Last Updated June 28, 2019