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'Hunger Games' film memorabilia on display at Palace of Fine Arts

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Staff

MARCH 14, 2016

The Innovation Hangar at the Palace of Fine Arts has been a heart of much of what San Francisco stands for: artistic thinking, creation and, of course, innovation. Since opening in February 2016, the space has received half a million visitors and will surely see a surge this spring as it is now host to the global tour of “The Hunger Games: The Exhibition,” a travelling display of costumes, recreated sets and props from the franchise.

Getting to the exhibition almost feels like a part of it. One must walk through the soaring architecture of the Palace of Fine Arts, reminiscent of the classic Greek and Roman tradition and evoking the style and visual tendencies of the Capitol in “The Hunger Games,” setting the tone for the exhibit in great, unintentional effect.

From the start, the exhibition aims to take visitors on the narrative of the four films, laying out seven galleries that emulate Katniss’ trajectory through the games and war.

Attendees find intimacy in the beginning rooms as they navigate the rural, small and old-style Americana-inspired sets and costumes. We see Katniss’ beginnings and the importance of her home life. The placement of the mockingjay pin among hundreds of other knick-knacks within the gritty, realistic black market in District 12 elicits the idea that great courage can come from little places. The spaces that follow intend to evoke much of the same, placing “The Hunger Games” in a light of relatability, identification and cultural importance — often through interactivity.

The narrative continues and each gallery gives its costumes and set recreations a real-world context, creating a dynamic sense of viewership that elevates the exhibition above simple display. Visitors can stand in front of Effie Trinket’s lavish, purple costume as her mannequin unfolds a name on stage as if we’re a part of the reaping. According to the exhibit, the costume designers created the various outfits of President Snow with the dictatorial leaders of ancient Greece and Rome as well as modern Russia and North Korea in mind. Author Suzanne Collins was even inspired by the televising of both the Iraq and Vietnam War, the latter in which her father fought. The exhibition translates that inspiration by juxtaposing actual images of the Iraq war with explicitly comparable costumes and sets from the games and wars in the films.

Next to the recreation of the almost mythological “girl on fire” costume in its chariot, attendees can stand in front of a green screen and be placed in the chariot, allowing themselves to be the one “on fire.” Within certain spaces, visitors can also directly interact with characters and concepts from the films, engaging in activities such as sitting across from a visual display of the hilarious Caesar Flickerman or designing an inspirational call to arms with themselves placed in the message as “the mockingjay.”

The main themes are brought full circle with the penultimate gallery expanding on the themes of the beginning galleries. After traversing District 13, visitors arrive in a gallery dedicated entirely to “Katniss’s Journey,” showcasing her four quintessential costumes: her hunting outfit, her wedding dress, her mockingjay dress and her mockingjay armor. The room highlights Katniss’ multidimensionality and nuances, her adventure and her significance as a powerful, courageous woman.

But where the exhibition comes into full realization is in its final gallery. Pieces of “The Hunger Games” art from unaffiliated artists around the world are hung up in an intimate room entitled “The Hall of Dreams.” These paintings and drawings were submitted for a contest, the participants of which have been given wide exposure to a career in the arts. According to an Innovation Hangar employee, many of the contestants, some of them even kids, come from developing countries and are now fulfilling their dreams. The winner of the contest was even recruited to make art for IMAX.

The exhibition shows how “The Hunger Games” film franchise is more than just mindless, blockbuster entertainment. The stories told came from essential ideas, positive and negative, that hold weight in our present day. They hold power, especially with the inspirational figure of Katniss at their center, and, as evidenced by “The Hall of Dreams,” can reach lives across the world.

“The Hunger Games: The Exhibition” will be on view at the Innovation Hangar in the Palace of Fine Arts until July 31.

Contact Kyle Kizu at 

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MARCH 14, 2016