So … some of y’all asked what I thought about the film, “Detroit”. Well, to bounce the ball back to my homie Dr. Muhammad Khalifa, I said: “For someone who ain’t never probably been to Detroit or knew anything about it before writing/directing it, I give ’em an ‘A’ for effort, but a D+ on substance”.
For starters, there’s the director, Kathryn Bigelow: Cali born, Columbia educated. And the writer, Mark Boal: a New Yorker. Now, it’s not that a Californian or a New Yorker couldn’t know anything about Detroit … but these two make no sense exceptions to the rule. This was formulaic Hollywood at its best, or in my opinion, worst. Or even better, to paraphrase John Sims: “Detroit is a film by white people, about ‘the Blacks’, for white people”.
So what does Detroit get wrong? Well, for one, Detroit is a city of neighborhoods, not individuals. And this movie is a classic example of postmodern storytelling: focus on the individual narrative; peoples and their histories? Nah … who cares about that, right? And it’s history that Bigelow and Boal (and Hollywood as a whole) just doesn’t get. I was also quite upset that at the end of the film, where you’d normally get that sequence of “real life photos” of the people actually impacted by the events hinted at in the movie, instead you get, “su-prise! su-prise!” The film you just saw is not only a dramatization but the events that we just portrayed in front of your eyes ain’t exactly the truth. To me, given the gravity of the events (white police offers, in collusion with one another, murder black civilians, and are then acquitted!), those people deserve more dignity than to be used as Hollywood canon fodder.
Lastly, since the film is titled “Detroit”, it didn’t even come close to scratching the complicated reality that is Detroit (let alone the riots of ’67!): race, economics, class, etc. So yeah … it falls very, very far from the mark.