How did Detroit — the world’s fastest-growing city in 1950 — become America’s fastest-shrinking city in 2012, complete with 100,000 empty houses and a total 40 square miles of vacant lots? And what does this mean for the rest of the U.S. as manufacturing continues to move offshore? These questions are the starting point for Detropia, a beautiful and wrenching new film by seasoned filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, who earned an Oscar nomination for their 2006 film Jesus Camp. Detropia moves from weary autoworkers continually fending off pay cuts to teen video bloggers trying to make sense of it all to a Mayor overseeing a city so sparsely populated, he actually requests that remaining Detroiters get together and move to a single neighborhood. The result is a kaleidoscopic and visually arresting portrait of a new America, one that hasn’t yet found its post-industrial footing. There’s hope in the form of young artists buying cheap houses to get the studio space they could not otherwise afford, and in the long-term potential of urban farming to help renew communities like this one. But Detropia still feels like a cry for help — and a wake-up call for anyone who still thinks we can tax-cut our way to prosperity.
Detropia begins a one-week run of 7:30 p.m. screenings (except Tuesday at 5:15 p.m.) hosted by Timecode:NOLA tonight at Zeitgeist Movies. A Q&A with co-director Rachel Grady will be conducted via skype after the screening tonight, Friday, November 30.