This incredibly moving, beautiful piece of documentary cinema tells the story of one city in economic decay; but really, as the real people in the film repeatedly state, 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; to make that happen, you'll have to assist in helping to bring the film to theaters.
The filmmakers are releasing Detropia independently, and as widely as possible, which means lots of money will need to be spent; they were able to raise over $70,000 via Kickstarter (their original campaign goal was to raise $60,000) and their plan is to "go beyond the usual coastal cities that consume indie film and into regions, theaters and venues that want to see the movie but can't."
Our plan is to build an independent release of at least 25 American cities. At the same time we’ll be doing more screenings with communities and educational institutions where spirited debates and discussions can take place around the story of DETROPIA
The film will open 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.
Watch the brand-spanking new trailer below for a glimpse at what to expect: