Friday, March 12, 2010

Toothless and Incoherent

More Detroit in the Guardian (you'd think there wasn't enough urban misery happening this side of the Atlantic). This time it's a plug for Julian Temple's new documentary Requiem for Detroit of which I saw a work-in-progress version at the IDFA end of last year. What I saw then annoyed me... for a start there was an overabundance of white men talking, and the first black face on the screen was toothless and incoherent - and this is in a city where officially over 80% of the inhabitants are African American - and the rest of the film continued to designate the job of telling the story of the city to the white minority, though Tyree Gruyton gets to say something and Grace Lee Boggs put in an eloquent appearance near the end of the film. What was also interesting was the way in which - other than the Ford manager - every single white person is filmed in their cars, a kind of cinematic white exodus of the city, whereas all the African Americans were, without exception, intransient, 'left behind' - which I thought was a rather clever device but on talking to the producer after the screening I got the impression that this wasn't a deliberate (di)vision. I also found the music in the section on the riots rather disturbing - 'Dancin' in the Streets' may well have been the anthem of the rioters and would have been fine accompaniment to a bit of burning and stone throwing, but it seemed to me inappropriate to run it whilst the bloodied bodies of protesters were being carried off - came across more like Dancin' on their Graves...
The film's showing on BBC-2 tomorrow evening at 22u (Dutch time) and I'm curious to see if anything got done with my criticism of the underlying racism in the way the population was being portrayed.

1 comment:

Vincent Roman said...

An interesting take on the documentary, and admittedly not one I had considered until you mentioned it, most likely because I was focusing on other angles.

If nothing else the documentary succeeded in driving me to find out a lot more out about a city, I thought I actually knew something about. So it has been a good catalyst.

Something positive at least, and draws focus on a city that needs attention.