With a full production swing with media from all over the world, last night Detroit had its World Premiere at The Fox Theatre.
For those who are not aware of the story of the Detroit Riots in 1967, you are about to be educated but be forewarned, this movie, nor the subject matter, is not for the faint of heart.
When people think of Detroit who don’t live in Michigan, they think of a decaying war zone, and in 1967, a real war zone existed.
50 Years ago today, the 4th day of the Detroit Riots had transpired, and 5 days prior were long days of violence, where 43 people died, and more than 2,500 businesses were taken or looted, according to MLive‘s statistics, along with 7,000 people being arrested, and 1,100 injured.
In this setting of Motown, you see some real footage alongside movie footage of the occurrences, and some incidents leading up to the event, but the movie focuses in specifically on the murders that occurred in the Algiers Motel.
Kathryn Bigelow, who directed Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker, focuses on the war between races, which is honestly a very important subject that needs to be touched on. A Detroit native and a professor at Georgetown University named Dr. Michael Eric Dyson introduced Bigelow, but made a very prominent point when introducing, that many would ask why a “white woman” would have to be the person to bring this topic further to the surface.
He notes that she is a hero for telling this story, but it is because of the fact that her “white privilege” actually helps elevate the discussion, saying “Can she use and leverage her white privilege to identify with black and brown people who are demonized? Isn’t that the ultimate use of deconstructing white privilege to identify with those who are nameless and faceless in this society?”
And that’s exactly what has been done. Starting off on a raided after-hours club on July 23, 1967, riots began in the overcrowded, segregated, low-income housing that was set up for the black community, and how the National Guard had to be called in because the riots, looting, and fires were too much for Detroit Police to handle.
As history tells it, 3 black men were killed at the Algiers Motel at the hands of the Detroit Police, and the film depicts the moments leading up to, and through that exact event. This is where I say it is not for the faint of heart because much of the film is depicted in a torture situation.
Now, I will admit, I left the film feeling very upset and broken. And not for reasons that you’d think, but rather, the fact that I felt uneducated about these events, and how the City of Detroit gets a bad rap from all forms of media because of this event, and the events followed. This is something that isn’t taught in schools across the country, and it is a huge event that should be touched on. And as Detroit is on the up and up now, and being rebuilt now 50 years later, it is hard to stomach that we’re still facing police brutality across the country today.
Considering everything that has happened recently in retaliation of the officer-involved shootings of Alton Sterling, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, and so many others, this problem still exists in the U.S. today, and if we don’t have a serious conversation about it, then we’re doomed to repeat it.
Now, it’s true, that many people that aren’t of color do not pay attention like they should to these issues that exist, but sadly, yet hopefully, now that a movie has been put out depicting something of this magnitude by a director of this stature, they’ll start to take note.
The movie will make you emotional, and may even make you mad. But the point of this movie is to start a conversation, and like many of the stars echoed on the Red Carpet, as well as Detroit Police Chief James Craig, that “this is part of our history.” And as many people realize, history can repeat itself, and if you don’t know the history and the problems that have happened in the past, it can occur again if you don’t pay close enough attention.
So my call to action to you is to see the movie, which was moved up to hit theaters July 28, rather than it’s original release date of August 4. And no matter how painful these events may be, sit through the whole movie. Judging by my experience, I’m betting you will come out forever changed.
Amy Cooper is a journalist and photographer who attempts to capture life and events as is, and leaves the door open for you to make your own conclusions.