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Three documentaries provide new insight into Detroit

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Rebecca Cook/Reuters

(Read caption) The city of Detroit is the center of three documentaries, including 'Detropia.'

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One of the magical things for me about art in general, and documentary film in particular, is the ability to make connections, to reveal patterns in seemingly disparate parts of life.I was struck again by this when I saw the third (excellent) Silverdocs film in a row featuring Detroit as a central or strong supporting character.

Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s latest effort Detropia is, as the name would suggest, set in the Motor City. While Detroit is the star of the show, as the name would also suggest, the film is bigger than Detroit. What really makes the film stand apart is Grady and Ewing’s ability to connect the dots and show how Detroit is the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the U.S. The decline of the Detroit parallels decline of the middle class and the greatest destruction of wealth this country has seen. So at its core Detropia is really about the fate of Detroit as a metaphor for the fate of all of us – will we move towards rebirth and utopia? Or crumble and slide into dystopia? The core lies in the spirit of its the scrappy residents fighting to keep the city alive. Tommy, a native Detroiter and owner of the Raven bar just outside the city, gets one of the last and most powerful lines of the film (and I’m paraphrasing here) “when you see your neighbor’s house is on fire, you need to help them put it out because you know your house will be next.”


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