There’s been a rash of Detroit documentaries lately, from locals with well fed Kickstarter accounts to seasoned vets submitting their takes on the city to the Sundance Film Festival. As the city’s buzz has intensified over the past several years, it seems everyone’s been trying to best document Detroit and what it all means. In this multiple part series, the Urbane Life will be taking a look at a number of the more notable and notorious Detroit documentaries. This week’s entry takes a look at the new documentary ‘Detropia’, perhaps the most hyped Detroit doc yet.
A true cultural zeitgeist started happening–locally, nationally, and internationally–somewhere around 2008 or so, and the poverty, destruction, hope, symbolism–take your pick–associated with the city became so well tread that a series of cliches formed. Michigan Central Station, urban prairies, hip, young entrepreneurs and artists–you know them all by now. So when Detropia was announced and the hype it generated eclipsed every documentary before it, I was, to say the least, wary.
I was fully prepared to dislike Detropia. Except I can’t. Because it’s good. The film is really good, actually, and manages to feel fresh despite its well worn subject. This is because though the film takes place in Detroit and is about Detroit and, yes, even features some of those Detroit media cliches (hellooooo train station), the film is about something much bigger than Detroit. It succeeds in the way that the best documentaries succeed. It takes a specific situation, something the viewer may feel completely removed from, and makes it universal. The film could easily take place in Cleveland or Baltimore or even Windsor across the river. It’s just that maybe Detroit’s story is the most colorful and, yes, obvious, of the bunch, making it the perfect setting.
It also helps that the filmmakers actually know what they’re doing. The team, Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, is the team behind Jesus Camp. They know how to pick the right characters to follow and craft a story around. Tommy Stevens, owner of the Raven Lounge, seems a perfect protagonist for any documentary: honest, folksy, and likable. He, like many of the other characters in this story, know exactly what’s at stake here. And I think the filmmakers do too.
Detropia is now playing at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in downtown Royal Oak.
This article brought to you by the good folks at Urbane Apartments Royal Oak Michigan, Urbane Apartments Ferndale Michigan,Urbane Apartments Birmingham Michigan, and Urbane Apartments Dearborn Michigan