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  1. #1

    Default “Detropia” on PBS’ “Independent Lens”

    From The Denver Post:

    Detropia, scrappers. Credit: Courtesy of Tony Hardmon

    “Detropia” isn’t one of those feel-good stories on the evening news about urban pioneers growing organic vegetables in burned out downtown Detroit. And it isn’t about how the Ford Focus is going to help the city rebound to its past glory. It’s deeper than that.

    “Detropia,” an independent film airing Monday on PBS’ “Independent Lens,”
    is an insightful observation about the former vitality of this once great American city, a chronicle of its decline, and a tribute to those who choose to stay there. Vintage clips from sexy, futuristic auto shows in the 1960s are juxtaposed with empty factories and empty houses; statistics confirm the exodus of jobs and population. Performance artists’ experiments and an opera company’s performances turn up unexpectedly, a hint of the irrepressible pluck beneath the surface of this dispirited city.
    An artful film by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (“12th & Delaware,” “Jesus Camp”), “Detropia” documents the economic collapse of Detroit and efforts toward imagining the future, but it does so from the street level — with input from artists, a video blogger/barista, a bar owner and the head of the United Auto Workers local division. A gang of young men explain how they live off money they make from hauling scrap metal out of the remains of buildings. The mayor delivers bad news at endless meetings with angry citizens. And an opera singer rehearses on the train, in bombed out buildings and before an audience of die-hard Detroit opera-goers. Through it all, the themes of racism and class warfare are unmistakable.
    There’s no happy ending. But the eyes of America are upon Detroit, the filmmakers suggest, to see if any kind of positive reinvention there can point the way for the rest of the country.


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