"Detropia" Stirring, Disturbing, Incomplete

You’ve heard of Detroit’s trials and tribulations and now, you can see them vividly on the silver screen in a new documentary from filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, called “Detropia”. If you have an opportunity to see the movie, which won a Sundance award for film editing (and was nominated for another) do so. It is visually beautiful and compelling and, yet, is incomplete.

Shot largely in 2010 during the collapse of the auto industry, “Detropia” attempts to tell the tale of our city, looking very briefly back at 1967, and and how it has suffered greatly in more recent years due to the fall of manufacturing and rise of outsourcing in this country in general.  We see images of decay and depression tempered slightly by nostalgia and hope, provided largely through the eyes and words of a video blogger, UAW chapter president and bar owner respectively.

In the end, though, the movie does not tell the whole story of Detroit – not even close. Too many images of dilapidated, crumbling buildings and overgrown fields give the impression that the city is too far gone and still too reliant on automotive (i.e. The Volt). Campus Martius? Never mentioned. Dan Gilbert and the burgeoning IT corridor on Woodward that is bringing thousands upon thousands of jobs downtown? Ditto. And what about high-tech manufacturing where engineering jobs go unfilled by the hundreds of thousands, here and nationwide?

Similarly unreported is our emerging Creative Corridor, tech and entrepreneurial growth in midtown and fact that residential living has become nearly 100% occupied within the past year, necessitating new real estate projects. This is where the movie is most sorely lacking – in balance.  ”Detropia” does not tell the rest of the story – what Detroit could be and is indeed becoming.