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Michael Beach Nichols,
Christopher K. Walker
The woes of Detroit are emblematic of the collapse of the U.S. manufacturing base. Is the Midwestern icon actually a canary in the American coal mine? DETROPIA is a cinematic tapestry of a city and its people who refuse to leave the building, even as the flames are rising. Written by
This film is interesting to watch, especially the tour through the ruins of Detroit, a fascinating graphic representation of the collapse of a major American city. The haunted landscape with its empty houses and buildings (often very large buildings) evokes emotions of loss and decline, both sad and romantic at the same time. I was thoroughly entertained while I was watching those scenes. This documentary also interviews some of the residents of those devastated areas, and while those survivors are likable and interesting in themselves, they seem to have little insight into what's going on around them or why. This video provides a paucity of information about what brought about those alarming conditions, instead focusing on allowing the pictures to tell the story.
There are a couple of major omissions that are quite glaring, as if the videographers just had to avert their eyes from the truth because of ideology or just a personal aversion. First is the alarming crime rate. Only about 21% of the homicides are solved. There is no indication here about how dangerous Detroit has become. Another omission is the abysmal condition of the public schools. Without decent schools there is literally no hope for the kids still having to live in the Detroit area. My understanding is that it is not due to lack of money because Detroit schools receive more per pupil than the national average. Only 25% of high school students graduate. A young student is more likely to wind up in prison than in college. A third glaring omission is the fact that the city has been ruled by Democratic politicians for 50 years. The city's problems are to a large extent the result of bad politics, misspent money and cronyism. Without a viable opposition who was there to keep the politicians honest?
I don't mind that much if the documentary was just meant to show the wasteland that was once Detroit as a series of visual images for their own sake. However there seems to be something under the surface that is hinted at but never developed. Why did Detroit take such a nosedive in the last decades? I would have preferred a more in-depth analysis. Why couldn't Detroit adapt to changes in the global market? Auto plants in other parts of the US are doing okay. Did the unions kill the auto industry in Detroit? This is a question that is never asked in "Detropia." Perhaps because the filmmakers didn't want to face the answer.
4 of 6 people found this review helpful.
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