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15 January 2013

Detropia

directed by Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady

Ugh. Another doc about how bad things are in Detroit. Yes, it’s a little rough in my hometown, and yes, there doesn’t seem to be a clear light at the end of the tunnel, but filmmakers like Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady will have you believe that my beloved city is naught but a wasteland inhabited by scavengers, criminals and weirdoes. There is probably a larger element of truth in that concept than I would care to admit, but when all the world ever gets to see is the negative, we Detroiters find ourselves getting a little defensive about how our Motor City is portrayed. RoboCop. The Crow. True Romance. Vanishing on 7th Street. Hell, even The Goonies finds Mouth (Cory Feldman) commenting on how Detroit has the highest murder rate in the country (I know it’s true, but come on people). Detropia attempts to comment on the destructive forces (the manufacturing exodus of the 80s and 90s, the population decline that has left whole city blocks vacant) that have reduced a once thriving city to a dilapidated ghost town, but the result is uneven at best. I will give Detropia credit for not focusing on violence (a topic sadly more suited for Flint, MI), but I would have liked to find a bit more optimism. There are a few significant moments, but if you want to see a much better, much more effective meditation on the current state of Motown, please check out Florent Tillon’s wonderful doc Detroit Ville Sauvage. And while it’s not particularly well made, I also whole heartedly recommend the Palladium Boots doc called Detroit Lives, a mini doc that actually focuses on positive things happening in the city.

A thought: Does it ever irk any of you when your city/state/region/country is consistently portrayed in a negative or consistently one sided way? I supposed it’s different for people who live in places like New York City or some other place that has been referenced countless times in a variety of ways in film. Even in the snoozer Up in the Air, the Detroit long shot was as depressing as possible, and The Five-Year Engagement half jokingly portrays Ann Arbor (the snootiest of Michigan cities) as bleak and uncultured. 

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