This incredibly moving, beautiful piece of documentary cinema tells the story of one city in economic decay; but this isn’t just a Detroit problem; it’s an American problem, and other cities within the country will eventually experience a similar fate; that is, unless something is done to reverse trends brought about by what we call globalization, as captains of industry make decisions based almost entirely on the need to generate profit.
It’s business as usual, and what you’ll see and hear in Detropia won’t necessarily be anything you haven’t already seen and heard before – notably, the results of the exporting of jobs to countries that provide cheaper labor (meaning wage cuts, and layoffs for those already in despair), and how quickly the USA went from being a top manufacturer and exporter of goods in the early half of the 20th century, to primarily exporting services and importing goods manufactured in other countries around the world (China especially) today.
It’s a question that Detropia asks; and it doesn’t provide all the answers, but I don’t think that’s the filmmakers’ intent.
Natives of Detroit, co-directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, are more interested in those who remain in that diminishing city – once a vibrant metropolis with almost 2 million inhabitants not-so-long ago, as workers (including many African Americans escaping the Jim Crow south) migrated north in search of jobs within all those then flourishing auto manufacturing plants, leading to a rise in the middle class; but now a city with around 700,000 people, a ghost of its former self, littered with abandoned buildings (skyscrapers and homes), empty lots and streets, that make it look as if a war broke out, or, as one person noted in the film, as if a bomb was dropped in the middle of the city.
But oddly enough it’s that desolate, deserted look and feel, and accompanying deflated standard of living that make it alluring to some – artists especially.
The film is a result of 2 years of on the ground work in Detroit by the filmmakers, looking at a city (and really a country; or even world) in crisis.
And hopefully you’ll get to experience it as I did at the Sundance Film Festival in January this year, when the film opens in select theaters on September 7, and will continue to expand throughout the fall.
It was one of the highlights of my Sundance 2012 experience, and is highly-recommended.
I had the opportunity to chat with the directors of the film; a summary of that conversation will be posted next week, the week of the film’s release.
And thanks to them, S&A has an exclusive look at the film, via the below stirring clip: