Detroit's story has encapsulated the iconic narrative of America over the last century the Great Migration of African Americans escaping Jim Crow; the rise of manufacturing and the middle class; the love affair with automobiles; the flowering of the American dream; and now . . . the collapse of the economy and the fading American mythos. With its vivid, painterly palette and haunting score, Detropia sculpts a dreamlike collage of a grand city teetering on the brink of dissolution. These soulful pragmatists and stalwart philosophers strive to make ends meet and make sense of it all, refusing to abandon hope or resistance. Their grit and pluck embody the spirit of the Motor City as it struggles to survive postindustrial America and begins to envision a radically different future. -- (C) Official Site … More
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Critics Consensus: The Words Doesn't Know What To Say
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Critic Reviews for Detropia
Detropia is everything you think it's going to be: educational, emotional and highly depressing. Yet, Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing's documentary portrait of Detroit, America's noted city of industry, is not a static picture of decay.
Bleak but aesthetically quenching documentary on how the once great industrial city of Detroit has in modern times become a car wreck.
A hard-hitting yet lyrical documentary about the current economic woes of once prosperous Detroit, an iconic American city.
A sobering, sentimental journey through crumbling Detroit -- but one lacking any real intellectual punch.
The film at its best is a sort of visual essay or tone poem composed of haunting, paradoxically beautiful images of urban ruin that sometimes appears almost post-apocalyptic...
Detropia's filmmakers stay out of the picture, hanging back to allow the viewer to absorb the meaning of Detroit's fate. It is even more complex than we thought.
A startling, haunting documentary about a once-great city, "Detropia" is all but a eulogy for Detroit.
Grady and Ewing, employing the observational, often visually poetic style that has become their trademark, capture this city at a crossroads.
Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, Oscar-nominated for their earlier Jesus Camp, aim a compassionate and artful lens in their new documentary Detropia, finding signs of life in the ruined city.
City services are shutting down, schools are closing, houses are being demo'd by the thousands - like lights being turned out one by one, "Detropia" powerfully captures a city fighting not to go dark.
Artfully - perhaps too artfully - illustrates the transformation of the Motor City from a middle-class utopia to an urban nightmare of blight, crime and fleeing residents.
Just as the film finds an aesthetic in its dilapidated setting, the city's residents find hope in a desperate place, a place that once represented hope itself.
'Detropia' is a tone poem, an impressionistic mosaic that gives you a sense of the city and a pandemic of pessimism that challenges those who elect to stay.
The dreamlike visual approach makes for undeniably good cinema but as a meaningful examination of why Detroit unraveled, what it's facing, and where it might go, it's woefully inadequate portraiture.
The movie is heavy on statistics (all of them grim), yet what lingers is an operatic sense of tragedy.
"Detropia" feels somewhere between loose (which is good) and aimless (which isn't).
Via beautiful cinematography, the film wanders the city, contrasting a new automaker's towers with abandoned hotels, derelict theaters, ruined houses and people walking through the snow down the middle of streets because there's no traffic.
Audience Reviews for Detropia
Detroit's woes are well known by anyone who pays half-attention to the news. And any red-blooded American is rooting for the revitalization and rebirth of this once-powerful city. The stark contrast of what this city once was and what it has become is the dark side of the American Dream.
Therefore Detroit has proven itself to be more than worthy to be a powerful subject for a documentary. Its struggles beg to be documented and told through the lens of an insightful and thought-provoking filmmaker. That's why "Detropia"'s lack of impact is such a surprise.
Filmed with a feathery touch and told through an arthouse-lens, "Detropia" doesn't cover any new ground. Fans of beautiful cinematography and stylish storytelling will enjoy "Detropia" but if you are looking to learn new things about Detroit or to really feel and understand the true struggles of this once amazing and now dying city, don't bother going to "Detropia".
"Detropia" is an eye-opening case study of late model capitalism, as the middle class has all but ceased to exist in Detroit. The documentary contrasts the success of Detroit's past with its present lying in ruins and possible bankruptcy with a rapidly decreasing population that currently resides at about 713,000. About the only available jobs involve demolition and salvage, as Mayor Dave Bing remarks that even if people get a good job, they just might be saving enough to move away, anyway. What's striking here is the film also being as interested in the visual side of the equation, exemplified by a sudden cut from an old advertisement showing the shiny highways of the future to a stray dog out in the middle of a street.
What of Detroit's future, if it has one? Mayor Bing has a radical proposal to consolidate the still viable neighborhoods to save on services, including mass transportation, which are in danger of being cut even more. While all of that is going on, the documentary follows a vlogger, a bar owner and a union president who do what they can for their city.(The documentary is dedicated to such civic minded individuals.) This also gives the documentary a street level view of events. What's also interesting and possible optimistic about the 2010 census is that it reported a 59% increase in young people moving downtown, some of whom are artists drawn to cheap housing. In conclusion, the documentary sees more hope in the arts than in the white elephant of sports which is pretty much ignored here since they are probably more of interest to surburbanites.
No new ground covered in this doc about the demise of Detroit...cue shots of the Ren Cen at dusk with the GM logo ablaze, despairing statistics and the urban porn star - the ubiquitous and spooky Detroit Central train station. Clueless residents, a union president and an irritating video blogger serve as the narrative to the Motor City meltdown that would have been better served with just one voice. No solutions are offered so what is the use...perhaps as an national cautionary tale? (9-29-12)More
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