Review: Detropia

Full disclosure: I was born and raised in Michigan, and I've lived there nearly all my life. Like many Michiganians, I have a complex emotional relationship with the city of Detroit; it's impossible to ignore the seemingly insurmountable problems it faces in the present day, but it's just as hard to ignore its rich and remarkable history, and the fact that it was once one of America's truly great cities. And while bad politics and a crumbling economy have reduced Detroit to a shadow of its former self, it's still a place where good things happen, and where the city's creative community remains a vibrant and powerful force. Detroiters are people with a fierce loyalty to their hometown, reflected in their attitudes about the city's professional sports franchises; even if the Lions, Tigers, Pistons, or Red Wings have a bad season (not exactly unknown for any of the teams in the long term), the fans do not turn their backs on them. They believe right up to the bitter end, and they feel the same way about the embattled town they call home.

There's a form of journalism and filmmaking known as "ruin porn" that focuses with voyeuristic glee on the photogenic decay of urban infrastructure; Detroit has become the ruin-porn capital of the world in recent years as outsiders display their morbid fascination with its poor fortune, and as a Michiganian I was ready to give up on the documentary Detropia after the first ten minutes. The first reel looks as if directors Heidi Ewing andRachel Grady were determined to make this the Deep Throat of ruin porn, panning lovingly over tumbledown houses, abandoned neighborhoods, and great mansions gone to seed. Thankfully, I stuck around until the end and can report that while Ewing and Grady want the audience to take a long, lingering look at what has happened to Detroit, they also focus on the human consequences of the city's downturn, making it clear that what is happening in the Motor City can and likely will happen to dozens of other American cities if nothing is done to stop it. Read More... 


Want to comment on this? First, you must log in to your SideReel account!