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'Lemonade Detroit' film shares stories of resilience

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The film opens with a stunning performance by Detroiter David Blair, reading aloud his poem, “While I Was Away,” an ode to the city’s liveliness and a plea for its brighter future.

“My heart beats like tool and dye for you/Like horse power and pistons for you,” he says, lovingly. Blair, who recently passed away prematurely due to heat stroke, stands knee-deep in snow, gazing toward the city’s high-rises, projecting his voice toward the city where people are building a way forward for the city that once stood as a pillar of American industrial wealth.

Below, Proulx shares with Dowser the motivation behind the film and its crowdsourcing approach, and a few thoughts about the film's impact.

Dowser: How did the idea come about?
 Proulx: This is my second ‘Lemonade’ film; my first was bout people who got laid off and reinvented themselves, their lives and careers. And that was a wake-up call – that I had an opportunity in this seemingly devastating global crisis, that there was something I could do about it. And I was screening that film in Detroit in 2009 and there were about 400 people who had lost their jobs and I was sharing this film with them and I thought that there was going to be a case where I’d have to get people to understand that this isn’t Polyanna, you can actually do this, and really, all my preconceptions were wrong. My preconception coming in was, oh, it’s really bad – because I’d never been to Detroit before. So that struck me as interesting – if any population in the country of all the screenings I’ve been doing would have the right to feel disenfranchised, it would have been them. But actually, there was an amazing optimism. The more I asked around, the more stories that I found, and I kept seeing this "never say die" resiliency. And that’s why I wanted to make a film specifically about Detroit.

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