As you walk up the staircase in my parents’ house, there hangs one of my favorite pictures of my dad wearing a Ronald Reagan hat and smiling. The picture was taken when he was at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit during the Republican National Convention in 1980. I remember how energized my mom and dad were after that trip. They loved Ronald Reagan, and they believed he would “Make America Great Again.”
When I think about Detroit, I think about that picture of my dad at the convention. Growing up a Boston Celtics fan, I think about watching—with my dad—their rivalry with the Detroit Pistons. And after seeing the recently released award-winning movie, Detropia, by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, I feel so sad for Detroit.
When you watch Detropia, you’re reminded of the horrific facts: The official unemployment rate is 30% but local leaders put it at 50%. The population has dropped from 1.85 million in the 1950s to 713,777 in 2010. A $12-billion deficit has led to a power-sharing deal with the state to avoid bankruptcy. Half its streetlights have been shut off. Fifteen bus lines have been cut. The FBI lists Detroit as the nation’s second most dangerous city. (Nearby Flint, Michigan, is first). And on and on and on…
But you get the facts about Detroit from the news. Through the movie Detropia, you see the despair. You see the ruins. And sometimes you need to see it—not to believe it, but to feel it. Detropia makes you feel it.
Detropia makes you feel the despair, the destruction, and the frustration of the people who love their home. Only a powerful movie can evoke the type of sadness I felt after watching Detropia. So why should you go see Detropia and be sad? Because the story playing out in Detroit is the same one being played out in many cities and states.
At its heart, Detropia is a love story. I know the director and producer Heidi Ewing’s family. They love Detroit. Her father was a successful businessman when the Detroit Big Three were known for what they made, not for being bailed out by the government. Heidi knows what it’s like to grow up in a family business.
Detropia is less about what led to the mess in Detroit. Detropia is about what’s left. I’m going to recommend Detropia to my dad and to you because it’s important that you see what Detropia feels like. But don’t just take my word for it:
“…a moving and powerful micro-portrait of a hurting nation…”
“The defeat of the middle class that has comprised the last decade of Detroit’s history. That painful story and its meaning for the rest of America is the subject of Detropia, an important, heartbreaking, and yet still occasionally hilarious documentary.”
“It’s elegiac, beautiful and quietly devastating.”
-NEW YORK MAGAZINE
“…Detropia succeeds in stoking our concern for a place most Americans have never visited.”
-THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER