Toward the close of Detropia, tenor Noah Stewart delivers a stirring Puccini solo in Detroitâ€™s abandoned train station. As Stewart sings, his notes ping off the stationâ€™s crumbling walls, the word â€śVOMITâ€ť 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 Detroitâ€™s ruin(s) nor romanticize the cityâ€™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 faĂ§ade 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 Detroitâ€™s violent riotsâ€”thereâ€™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 Detroitâ€™s population decline and its economic collapse, it is far more than the sum of its statistics. It challenges its central figuresâ€”a warm-hearted union president, a feisty schoolteacher-turned-bar owner, a young video bloggerâ€”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 Detroitersâ€™ hope, resourcefulness and grit.
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- Release Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
- Critic's Score: A-
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