“Detropia” is a beautiful film, or as beautiful of a film about the rapidly declining ghost town that was once the fastest growing city in the world can be. Made by the filmmaking power duo responsible for “Jesus Camp,” Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, “Detropia” is a film that can exceed your expectations.
It follows a series of intriguing characters that were “left behind” on a journey from their booming past to gut-wrenchingly bleak present. There’s Crystal Starr an intelligent barista who meanders through abandoned buildings to write posts.
She represents the youthful perspective of what it’s like to grow up in Detroit and stay there through the thick of it.
There’s George McGreggor who is the President of Local 22 Union Autoworkers who has seen huge auto manufacturing plants turn to fields to park dumpsters and has witnessed the pay cut to eventual unemployment of his union members.
Then there’s Tommy Stephens who owns a blues lounge that is down the street from a huge axel-producing plant that was shutdown in favor of outsourcing to China. When the plant closed, business slowed.
Perhaps one of the greatest scenes is when Stephens goes to a car show and compares the American version of Chevy Volt to its cheaper-by-half Chinese counterpart. It’s darkly comic and really gets to the nightmare the subjects are living, regardless of their outspoken love of the city.
Each character is hopeful, but is captured in a way to show a dismal fear they carry about the city they love. The film collages beautiful sequences of filming that give the grave and ghostly quality of Detroit a beautiful feeling in a way that captures how the characters can have love for it. The beauty of this film is something that will have the talk of the town.
It captures the essence of Detroit now: the painstakingly awful reality that people will never come back to the 100,000 homes they abandoned. And it poses the question: Is Detroit an isolated tragedy, or can this happen to an entire nation?
Contact Mallory Gnaegy at [email protected].