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Urban Roots (2011)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 2011 (USA)
URBAN ROOTS is a documentary that tells the story of the spontaneous emergence of urban farming in the city of Detroit. Detroit, once an industrial powerhouse of a lost American era, is a ... See full summary »


Mark MacInnis




URBAN ROOTS is a documentary that tells the story of the spontaneous emergence of urban farming in the city of Detroit. Detroit, once an industrial powerhouse of a lost American era, is a city devastated by the loss of half its population due to the collapse of manufacturing. By the looks of it, the city has died. But now, against all odds, in the empty lots, in the old factory yards, and in-between the sad, sagging blocks of company housing, seeds of change are taking root. With the most vacant lots in the country, citizens are reclaiming their spirits by growing food. A small group of dedicated citizens have started an urban environmental movement with the potential to transform not just a city after its collapse, but also a country after the end of its industrial age. Urban Roots shows dedicated Detroiters working tirelessly to fulfill their vision for locally-grown, sustainably farmed food in a city where people - as in much of the county - have found themselves cut off from real ... Written by Anonymous

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Urban Roots: Listening to Detroit Communities for Sustainable Development
12 June 2020 | by amandasmithkayeSee all my reviews

Urban Roots is a distinctly hopeful look at how people can rethink, repurpose, and reclaim their neighbors to create sustainable communities. It focuses on Detroit communities, particularly Black communities, to observe the development of urban farming spurred by economic downturn and devastation. The beginning of the film offers the capitalist dream of Detroit at the beginning of the 20th century, then cuts to Detroit circa 2011, during the peak of the recession. It reveals the unsustainable nature of our economy and how the development of a circular, more sustainable economic model is necessary to help our environment and society to thrive long-term. As Malik Yakini of D-Town Farm notes in the film, "sometimes, conditions help raise consciousness." This consciousness leads to grassroots advocacy in the form of farming collectives like D-Town Farm, with the goal of empowering people who have experienced disenfranchisement, environmental racism, and environmental justice to develop self-reliance. This allows residents to reclaim not only the land they reside on, but also cultural heritage and a sense of community despite challenging circumstances.

Within the context of environmental justice and sustainability, Urban Roots showcases urban farming as a solution to the pressing issue of food deserts and food insecurity for equitable accessibility of healthy food in all communities. Monica White, Assistant Professor of Sociology at WSU, reveals that the main motivation for farmers, specifically for the Black farmers, was to have a sense of control over their food systems. This only adds to the multitude of benefits which communities with urban farming experience.

One of my favorite aspects of this film is the simple yet poignant observation of urban spaces being reframed as natural and valuable environments. As a viewer, you are guided through Detroit communities by residents who are getting back in touch with nature by creating their own natural environments in the middle of the city. For too long, urban environments have been devalued unless they are developed "appropriately," as government and commercial entities would like them to be. However, Detroit residents take matters into their own hands to provide not only access to healthy food, but also access to nature in their communities. It's inspiring and should serve as a proof of concept for more urban farming and development of natural spaces.

I recommend this film to anyone who wants a little hope when it comes to developing sustainable urban communities and learning how individuals can come together for effective, positive change.

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2011 (USA) See more »

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Tree Media Group See more »
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