Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady have been leaders in the documentary scene for the better part of the last decade. Their first feature collaboration as documentary directors was 2005's BOYS OF BARAKA, a look at 20 12-year-olds from inner city Baltimore who are given a chance to study abroad in Kenya. The film won Best Doc prizes at Newport and Chicago, an audience prize at Silverdocs, and was even nominated for an Emmy. Their much talked about follow-up just one year later, JESUS CAMP, did even better, winning top prize at Silverdocs, a Special Jury prize at Tribeca, and was nominated for an Oscar. While their next film, 12TH & DELAWARE, didn't attain quite the notoriety of those first two, it was still a very well received exploration on the abortion battle raging across the country.
The pair's latest film, DETROPIA, is the story of a city on the downslide. From the filmmakers:
Detroit's story has encapsulated the iconic narrative of America over the last century-- the Great Migration of African Americans escaping Jim Crow; the rise of manufacturing and the middle class; the love affair with automobiles; the flowering of the American dream; and now . . . the collapse of the economy and the fading American mythos. With its vivid, painterly palette and haunting score, DETROPIA sculpts a dreamlike collage of a grand city teetering on the brink of dissolution. These soulful pragmatists and stalwart philosophers strive to make ends meet and make sense of it all, refusing to abandon hope or resistance. Their grit and pluck embody the spirit of the Motor City as it struggles to survive postindustrial America and begins to envision a radically different future.
Though it is more of an exploration than a call-to-action, DETROPIA is not without its political elements. Still Ewing and Grady choose to allow the viewer to draw connections instead of pointing straight to the failed policies and broken promises that have left Detroit in the mess it's in.
Although the film did quite well on the festival circuit winning, amongst other prizes, the Docu Editing Award at Sundance and Grand Prize Doc at the Boston Independent Film Fest, the distributors just didn't bite. However this hasn't dissuaded Ewing and Grady who have decided to distribute the film on their own. This interview with PBS's POV blog Doc Soup explains why.
The film opens this weekend in New York at the IFC Center and then will move across the country from there, stopping next in, you guessed it, Detroit, MI. Please check out the release schedule here and seek it out when it plays near you.