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DETROPIA (director/writer: Heidi Ewing /Rachel Grady; cinematographers: Tony Hardmon/Craig Atkinson; editor: Enat Siki; music: Dial.81; cast: Tommy Stevens, Crystal Starr, George McGregor, Phil Cooley, Mayor Dave Bing, Steve Coy, Dorota Coy; Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Heidi Ewing/Rachel Grady/Craig Atkinson; Docurama Films; 2012)
“Bleak but aesthetically quenching documentary on how the once great industrial city of Detroit has in modern times become a car wreck.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (“The Boys of Baraka”/”Jesus Camp”/”12th & Delaware”) co-direct this bleak but aesthetically quenching documentary on how the once great industrial city of Detroit has in modern times become a car wreck–a place of massive unemployment, with losses of more than half its industries to outsourcing, a hellhole of urban decay looking as if bombed in wartime, left with a declining mostly African-American population, an abundance of vacant spaces, abandoned buildings, high crime, a decimated middle-class, a bankrupt city with limited funds for essential services and a place with little hope of rising again except for a few young mostly white artists viewing it as an opportunity to live cheaply in lofts in the downtown area. Its failure, according to the filmmakers, sounds a warning to the rest of the country that if it happened in Detroit it can happen anywhere in this country.

We’re informed that in 1930 Detroit was the fastest growing city in the country, but is currently shrinking the fastest despite being where the big three of the automotive industry are located and who are the recipients of the recent big money government bail-out for the industry. Former basketball great, Mayor Dave Bing, offers no sure-fire answers to reverse the downfall, while the pic follows a few responsible citizens–retired teacher and bar owner Tommy Stevens, blogger Crystal Starr and UAW chapter president George McGregor–who remember the good ole days of middle-class prosperity, where everyone who wanted a job had one, but now can only scratch their heads and wonder if the city they love can ever recover.

The pic covers the facts of the downfall, offers some analysis of what went wrong and how it can be corrected, and relates how China is our biggest economic threat in the future. It dazzles mainly as a lyrical mood piece that pays tribute to the willing to work regular citizens in the now defunct city, as it lets us see for ourselves what happens when capitalism crashes and the richest 2% in the country think only of themselves and not of the 98 % whose labor and support contributed to making them so wealthy.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”