Wednesday, August 22, 2012

STF Critic Philip Bagnall on Detropia

"A stark warning" - IFI Stranger Than Fiction Festival Critic, Philip Bagnall reviews Detropia.

Detroit has become emblematic of the recession in the United States. Limping on since the auto industry bailout in 2009 the city, as presented in Detropia, is running out of options as well as money.

In Detropia, directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady interview various citizens of Detroit to catch a glimpse of the city as it is, and what the residents hope/fear it is going to become. Whether following a citizen video blogger, a trade union organizer, a bar owner or sitting in on meetings with the mayor, the overall message is one of hope balanced with realism. The people of Detroit hope to stay, but both economics (city unemployment is estimated to be about 50%) and practicality (a population of 800,000 scattered over 139 square miles) limit their options. Taking us inside the broken skeletons of fine gothic buildings and public utilities once teeming with life brings home the melancholia that stalks the suburbs. Although it highlights opportunities such as affordable housing for low-income earners, both Detropia and its interview subjects are less forthcoming with their solutions than they are with their opinions.

Like their previous film Jesus Camp, Ewing and Grady effectively capture the feelings of the people they meet. Detroit is crumbling, but there is always potential for a comeback. Though more interested in being polemical that precise, Detropia offers a stark warning against failing to fully invest in the future of our cities.

Philip Bagnall (@CynicalFilm)
IFI Stranger Than Fiction Festival Critic

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