The movie, “Detroit,” is a haunting recollection of American history culminating in a tense climax too human to believe. But the injections of news footage, crime scene photos, and family pictures pulled from the archives of time remind the young viewers that there did exist an era of cruel, state-sanctioned racism against Black people in the USA, with virtually no legal recourse for the oppressed.
Before the movie, members of the Black community, including Sheila Jackson Lee, brought up push button issues surrounding the Ferguson unrest and the mysterious death of Sandra Bland, while she was in police custody. The current turmoil of race relations, self-destruction of Black neighborhoods, and miscarriages of justice seem echoed in the dramatic retelling of the Algiers Motel incident and events surrounding.
Based on true events, “Detroit” tells a story of fear and loathing in Michigan during the 1967 Detroit Rebellion that lasted for five days. The main characters escape the streets-turned-war-zone to find themselves involved in a terrifying night of police interrogation resulting in brutality and murder at the Algiers Motel.
The story-telling is gripping, involving a script (by Mark Boal) well stitched together and directing (by Kathryn Bigelow) that lets the audience ease into the lives of each character, major and minor, and genuinely care about the outcome. Bigelow, no novice at delivering an immersive experience for movie-goers (Point Break, The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), delves into the Algiers Motel incident without pulling any punches and without turning away from any of the sources involved in the incident’s rise to infamy.
For a majority of the movie, we are with the characters, sharing their dreams, fearing for their survival, and observing, helplessly, as they are slain or saved by the police playing roulette with their lives and judged honest or confused by the justice system weighing the truth of their experiences.
After watching the movie, there are so many images and emotions that will remain with me for a long time. At one point, I remember thinking of the movie, “Schindler’s List,” and the mantra, “Never Forget,” feeling the relevance of the phrase concerning the Civil Rights struggles in the United States. While thinking of these pop culture tokens that keep us queasy at the thought of another holocaust, I wondered what equivalent will keep us from repeating the history depicted in “Detroit.”
What will remind the justice system to value all life enough to punish the takers of life? What will compel our police departments to keep all villains off the street, those outside and inside of its company? And, what will keep our own hearts wary of our own racial discrimination when we find ourselves in positions of power?
I’m not sure that one movie is enough of a teaching tool to become a lightening rod for the Black community, but maybe it is one in a long line of remembrance of a cruel history we must recall and forgive, in order to never repeat.
Everyone is talking about “Detroit” because it is a “must see” movie for the ages. It is in movie theaters everywhere starting August 4, 2017.
EM’s Movie Guru T.N. Jenkins gives “Detroit” 4.5 out of 5 Stars.
T. N. Jenkins is a former expat (ex-expat, if you will) and author of the budding Everhome Book Series. Jenkins was born in Oklahoma and is, therefore, a lover of musicals. Early on, her “creativity” awarded her frequent visits to the time-out corner where she first began to write poems and imagine. After college, Jenkins wrote through her unemployment and then moved to South Korea to work. She traveled Asia, visiting Guam, Taiwan, Japan, and Thailand. A graduate of the University of North Texas, Jenkins has been writing ever since she could hold a pencil straight. From a young age, she has been a creative writer, public speaker, and visual artist. During her youth, she traveled through Southern USA as the daughter of an army veteran. Among other things, Jenkins is an avid salsa dancer, movie-watcher, and indie filmmaker. She currently lives in Houston, Texas with her family, still feeding her desire to influence the world through storytelling.