The friend I’d brought along walked out midway through the film, the hurt and anger too raw to sit through. Maybe because we realized the story though 50 years old, could be ripped straight from the pages of today’s headline news; That’s the thought I couldn’t shake as I sat through Detroit.
Filmed among the backdrop of the 1967 Detroit riots, Detroit, focuses on a story within a much larger one. A story, like the many we see today could be brushed off as another “them versus us” tale of police brutality, but presents so much more .
The Algiers a local motel is where the action takes place. Two friends Fred & Larry are looking to have a little fun with two white women from Ohio and happen upon a group partying in the nearby room of Carl Cooper. What happens later is an all too familiar tale of dehumanizing violence in the face of authority. The Algiers is a trap and its victims the prey of a familiar evil. I don’t want to give away too much about the film, but I do want to say that it is one that brings to the surface so much of the pain that African-Americans have endured at the hands of what is supposed to represent a feeling of safety.
Detroit is shot in a way that makes you feel as if you are a voyeur transported back to the city at that time. The tension seeps through the production design of every burned and looted building and ear-splitting gunshot. I wanted to get up, wanted to go into the safety of the welcoming lights and water show at The Grove. But I sat there because I had to know how it ends, I had to know that there was justice served and that people are inherently good. I had to sit there to believe that it is a possibility that things will change. So, I sat there. Because as every ounce of me wanted to get up and yell and leave the theater yelling “FUCK THE POLICE”, what mattered more was that this story be told and that I sit there and hear it. Not run away to my mostly liberal mostly tolerant life, where I feel safe, and so far away from the things that happen to “us” (namely black men).
Go see Detroit. Whether the themes matter to you or not (namely if they don’t).