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Detropia

By REBECCA JACOBSON
Toward the close of Detropia, tenor Noah Stewart delivers a stirring Puccini solo in Detroit’s abandoned train station. As Stewart sings, his notes ping off the station’s crumbling walls, the word “VOMIT” sprayed in blue paint across the moldering tiles. Detropia, at its core, is an aria to decay. But filmmakers Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing neither sensationalize Detroit’s ruin(s) nor romanticize the city’s past. Theirs is an honest and sobering take, but also a vivid and beautiful one: The documentary cuts between scenes of frustrated bewilderment at a union meeting to staggering shots of a skeletal skyscraper façade trembling in the wind. Though its archival footage of children playing in well-manicured neighborhoods flirts with sentimentality, Detropia also takes the viewer back to Detroit’s violent riots—there’s an especially affecting shot of a woman driving down an empty street in 1967, loose wrist over the steering wheel and pistol in hand.  Though Detropia offers plenty of staggering numbers about Detroit’s population decline and its economic collapse, it is far more than the sum of its statistics. It challenges its central figures—a warm-hearted union president, a feisty schoolteacher-turned-bar owner, a young video blogger—on how best to save their beloved, beleaguered city. Set to Motown, opera and ambient electronic beats, Detropia is a lyrical and human tale, and a well-earned tribute to Detroiters’ hope, resourcefulness and grit.
 

Special Note

Living Room Theaters
 
  • Running Time:
  • Release Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
  • Critic's Score: A-
  • Watch the trailer
 

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