I Understand Why The DETROIT Movie Was Made, But I Can’t Recommend That You See It » VSB

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I Understand Why The DETROIT Movie Was Made, But I Can’t Recommend That You See It

Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Annapurna Pictures

 

Despite living away from my native Detroit for nearly a decade and a half, I stay connected to the city through frequent visits to my immediate family and through friends on social media. As of late, I’ve heard quite a few mixed-to-negative feelings about the upcoming DETROIT film from native Detroiters, so my first goal when touching down at Detroit Metro Airport on a paid press junket for the film was to figure out why so many people are taking umbrage.

The very first person I asked was the Lyft driver – a brother just a few years older than me – who took me from the airport to my hotel. He was concerned that DETROIT – a film centered around the racially motivated five-day rebellion in July 1967 that resulted in more than 40 deaths and thousands of destroyed buildings – might disrupt relations between native black folks and the city’s “new” white people, who are ostensibly at the helm of the city’s “revival” that people have been waiting for since I was pushing a big wheel.

On the driver’s behalf, I asked DETROIT screenwriter Mark Boal during a press conference with the cast and creators of the film if he and director Kathryn Bigelow had given thought to how such an inherently incendiary film would be received by an increasingly gentrifying Detroit. He admitted that he doesn’t know much about the Detroit of 2017, reinforcing that the story itself needed to be told. “A lot of people from [Detroit] don’t know the story even if they grew up here,” he said. “If that’s true in Detroit, it’s certainly true elsewhere.”

As I wait with bated breath for the movie’s Aug. 4 wide release so everyone can see and discuss it, I’ve zero doubt that DETROIT will anger many – especially black folks – for what will likely be several different reasons. In the film, the ’67 rebellion serves as a backdrop for the so-called Algiers Motel incident, where three black boys were killed, and seven black males and two white women were brutalized in one night by white officers from the Detroit and Michigan State police departments, as well as the Michigan Army National Guard.

The film depicts a borderline torture-porn degree of brutality that puts it in the company of films like Rosewood and 12 Years a Slave, in that will make you want to go into the office the morning after watching and push fucking Todd in accounting with his fucking chinos and fucking tucked-in Polo shirt out of the motherfucking plate-glass window on the 12th floor. I have a strong constitution for hard-to-watch movies, but even I had to pass my ticket to the world premiere off since there was no way in the name of Vishnu that I would sit through it twice in three days. There were many shed tears and some walk-outs at the screening I attended. It’s rough like that.

For us native Detroiters, there’ll certainly be an element of aggravation at the fact that there’s an eponymous movie representing the city in such a harsh, if historical, light, considering that the media has spent years portraying Detroit like its Mogadishu in the early 1990s. Sure, it’s a historical film depicting events from 50 years ago, but Detroiters are fiercely defensive people and this is just another thing that will make us want to throw hands at shit-talking outsiders.

There are numerous moments throughout DETROIT that might anger viewers less in a pre-Mike Brown zeitgeist: There’s the depiction of a police officer under investigation for murder who is allowed back on the street in active duty. There are the while girls boldly flapping their gums to white police officers under the (correct) assumption that they will, indeed, survive the night. There’s also a white savior component to the film that will rankle some people; sure, very few people believe that all white police officers are evil, but the portrayal of sympathetic white cops will certainly make people feel Some Type of Way™ less than two months after the acquittal of Philando Castile’s killer.

Folks have also made noise about the lack of black women in the DETROIT cast – even I was surprised when I couldn’t find one in the press materials. Samira Wiley pops up looking fly for about seven seconds, and every other sista in the film pops up in a SAG-AFTRA minimum-rate capacity. However, Black women simply weren’t present at the Algiers Motel during the incident. Considering the film’s brutal content, we shouldn’t want black women to be unnecessarily injected into that.

All of the aforementioned issues dovetail into one of the film’s chief critiques: should Bigelow and Boal, both white, be the ones to tell such a racially charged story? Some believe that protracted police brutality against black men is a bit voyeuristic when viewed through a white lens, and have increased strictures against the filmmakers’ every decision as a result. Was the black kid getting beat that harshly in real life? Or did these white folks just do it for effect?

When asked about this at the press conference, Bigelow said she had a very “lengthy conversation with myself” before taking on the movie. “This story needed to be told, and that kind of overrode any other hesitation,” she said. “I thought, ‘I have this platform and opportunity, and the story needs to see the light of day.’ I took advantage of that while, at the same time, realizing it’s a concern and challenge.”

Like Bigelow, I believe that someone needs to tell the story…especially considering that, like Boal said, many native Detroiters don’t know much about the ’67 rebellion. The extent of my own verbal history lesson was my mother explaining that, when she was 14-year-old, my grandmother had to threaten death to her and her siblings if they even thought of running to 12th Street to get a “free” television like the neighbors across the street did. Would it have been better for John Singleton or a Hughes brother or Ava Duvernay to tackle the story…? Perhaps, but that would require waiting around for a story that may never actually get told on screen.

Stepping back from the list of gripes, if the Algiers Motel incident had to be filmed by a white director, I’m glad it was Bigelow. I will forever be a Point Break stan, and DETROIT contains some of the same masterful directing and sound editing that created the near-masochistic levels of tension she employed in her Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker.

The set, mostly shot in and around Boston, actually resembles Detroit; Motown music is used to great effect, and the acting should generate Oscar buzz: Algee Smith, who played Ralph Tresvant in The New Edition Story, serves as the film’s emotional center and is destined to be a true star. And, because he does such an amazing job, you’ll truly despise every hair on the comically arched eyebrows of Will Poulter’s Philip Krauss, the film’s primary antagonist. (The British actor is actually extremely genteel in person.)

I won’t dismiss as unjustifiable the inevitable firestorm of polarizing opinions about DETROIT. But my primary concern is that viewers – especially non-black ones – don’t leave the theater thinking that the half-century-old true story it depicts is ancient history and outside of the realm of reality in a 2017 in which our president marginalized an entire fucking minority group with his Twitter fingers this week. The Ford Galaxie 500 police cruisers in the film may have been updated to Ford Fusions, and the “boys” and hard-r “niggers” not uttered as liberally by cops. But it takes little more than a glance at the national news on any given day to realize that racial relations among police and black folks have a long way to go.

Dustin Seibert

Dustin J. Seibert lifts heavy weights and plays all his video games on hard mode to find peace. He has a better ear for hip-hop than anyone else you know. He writes like the English language is going outta style because the steaks in his freezer are dependent on it.

  • Mary Burrell

    Nah, I saw the trailer and I know for a fact I will not be watching this.

  • Seymore Cases

    Bigelow & Boal…..is it me or does this sound like a mid-rate liquor brand or cigarette company?

    • Quickly cancelled cop romcom.

      • BrothasKeeper

        Fine scotch.

        • miss t-lee

          Bottom shelf whiskey.

          • Another Man’s Rhubarb

            Bottom shelf though. HAAA

  • Mary Burrell

    Bigelow she did The Hurt Locker

    • cysinblack

      Yes. And Strange Days (1995) costarring Angela Bassett. In a role specifically written for her by James Cameron.

      • Awesome movie.

        • cysinblack

          A BLM movie before it existed.

      • Mary Burrell

        I liked Strange Days

  • But wait…. who doesn’t know bout the riots of ’67 that is from Detroit?. Hayle, my 15 year old daughter knows!!

    But I am over white folks talking about our city like they really know… There was so much build up before the riot.. but White Detroiters or anybody else talk about that… talk about Black Bottom in Detroit….

    • Val

      Whites from Detroit or the suburbs of Detroit are the worst.

      • Suburbanites are waaaaaay worse… they don’t even have the experience to talk about Detroit but will give you a dayum earful. STFU. I, always. had mfers from Birmingham and W. Bloomfield telling me what Detroit was.. FUKCYOU!!

        • Val

          I see them on fb talking ish about Detroit. They ignore the history and who caused all the problems and blame everything on Black folks.

          • Yep… My Daddy used to talk about the black owned shops in his neighborhood.. he was from Hancock between McKinney and Vinewood.. West side.. Went to Cass and Northwestern, Condon Junior High….he talked about whtie folks not living where he was… and also Redford and Livonia (suburbs of Northwest Side Detroit) were dayum Sundown Towns…. so yeah white folks’ opinion s on Black Detroit can kma.

          • Nik White

            Some of them need to see this movie to get PART of the back story.

            • Val

              Yep. Hi, Nik.

              • Nik White

                Hey!

          • lkeke35

            Yeah I’m here East of y’all ( Ohio) and I know more about Detroit than I’ve seen white people talking about. I got fam there. They like to talk. Only people this movie for is ignorant white people, I’m thinking. Most Black people already know a lot of stuff they never figured.

        • Another Man’s Rhubarb

          I’m from W.B and I agree!

    • grownandsexy2

      So Detroit has a Black Bottom too?

      • HAD

      • Most black cities had Black Bottoms.. it’s the only way black folks were able to really sustain themselves.. White folks weren’t giving food on credit….It;s how black folks took care of one another.

        • grownandsexy2

          Philly had one also until it was razed for renewal back in the 60s when University of PA expanded. Of course that was met with opposition by the residents. It was populated by poor Blacks and I remembering how I hated how comfortable they were allowing themselves to be characterized that way, “the bottom.” I guess they had more worries than a moniker tho. Still it says a lot about how they saw themselves, IMO. Former residents still celebrate “Black Bottom Day” every August.

          • ” Black Bottom” never makes me feel low.. When I hear that.. I KNOW BLACK FOLKS were getting it…

        • Mary Burrell

          I agree about the black bottom community, it just speaks to the strength and resilience of black people sieving and thriving when the odds were against them.

    • Me

      Not gonna lie. I have no clue about it, and don’t really feel any obligation to learn. I’m at the point now where there have been enough periods of unrest in American history, that I need to know what change it led to for me to become interested in the backstory. All I know about Detroit is black boys, white girls, cops, riots, fin. If I’m missing something monumental, they should include it in the previews.

      • The Algiers Hotel incident was one among many, though. It didn’t start the riot.

        • This part!!

        • miss t-lee

          See…I had never heard of the Algiers Hotel incident, but I’d definitely read about the riots.

      • ANd that’s your prerogative but younger generations not learning or wanting to learn is what we are dealing with now…. all of these “colorblind” and “not all whites despite what history… a repeated history shows” and seeing us getting killed and now they are appalled is a direct result of that denial… When you don’t expect much from folks because of history.. you ain’t ever surprised…. That is the key to moving forward and creating self-sufficiency among us again.

        • Me

          I get that. There just comes a point where the circumstances of events are similar enough that you don’t need to learn about the details of every single one to get the gist. Detroit is one of those events for me. I can’t say I’ll be more or less outraged about history by learning about it, or that it’s going to motivate me to do anything more or less than what I’m already doing in light of it.

    • Dustin John Seibert

      Folks definitely didnt talk about it in schools.

      • Not in school but in families… ABSOLUTELY.

        • Another Man’s Rhubarb

          YES. I moved to the area when I was 6, and I vividly remember my dad driving us around the city and explaining the riots. At 6, I had no idea what he was talking about, but I sure never forgot.

    • Mary Burrell

      NWT I didn’t know just read about it this week on another site.

      • you’re from Detroit?

        • Mary Burrell

          No, I am from Dallas.

        • Mary Burrell

          But I was glad to read about it.

    • Myke Skillz

      I’m from Toledo and I even knew about the rebellion of 67 way back since high school….

    • Val

      Wow. They are just gonna pretend there are no Black folks there and take everything.

      • That was the general opinion expressed… LOL

      • Nik White

        They are trying – especially downtown and in “premier” neighborhoods.

  • Giantstepp

    speaking of the D– #FreeKwameKilpatrick… For the culture.

    • Val

      Seriously?

      • Giantstepp

        I kid–but 28 years was a lot of time. We see others that have done similar or worse with only a slap on the wrist.

        • Val

          Yeah, he got OJ time but still I don’t feel bad for him.

          • Giantstepp

            The Bruh was dead wrong and earned jail time. I just think 28 years was a bit strong.

            • Val

              Christine is the one I feel bad for. Her life is still in shambles and all she did was lie.

              • Nik White

                And sleep with a married man, while being married and boast about her position in the city, as in “Do you who I am”? during a traffic stop. I feel badly for her kids and ex-husband.

              • But she was fugging somebody’s husband so fukcher!!

                • Val

                  I hear you, NWT, but legally all she did was lie.

            • grownandsexy2

              Not strong enough IMO

              • Giantstepp

                Fair enough. I agree to disagree. :)

          • Don’t…

        • grownandsexy2

          That was some messy ish.

        • He has bodies behind that ish though.. don;t get it twisted.

    • No. For the culture. But he will make a great romance writer when he gets out. Those texts were h.o.t.

      • Giantstepp

        The Hip Hop mayor was wilding. lol

      • grownandsexy2

        “Those texts were h.o.t.”

        Indeed they were.

      • Dustin John Seibert

        Definitely not. He went high dirty. Free him for what?

    • Nik White

      Well White Boy Rick is finally out so…

  • Brother Mouzone

    Being from Detroit, I’m sensitive about how my city is portrayed in Hollywood. I’ll have to pass.

    • grownandsexy2

      As you should be.

    • I got this same reaction from Chicagoans when Chiraq came out. It’s interesting how hard people will rep their own hood for the most ratchet things but hate it when somebody else talks about it.

      • Brother Mouzone

        I’m not sure about the repping of ratchet things, but, I guess it’s no different than you being able to call your family member a name, but an outsider bet not do it.

        • LMNOP

          Good analogy, that makes a lot of sense.

        • cysinblack

          How Inglewood is super dangerous according to the whites who brave an event at The Forum (sigh).

        • T.T.

          Totally agree. I’m irritated enough as it is when people share their unsolicited extremely negative opinions about Detroit just in general, especially anyone that’s never step foot in the city.

      • Dustin John Seibert

        Man I almost forgot about Chiraq. What a terrible film.

        • I enjoyed it for it’s ambition… and Teonna Harris in lingirie.

          • Dustin John Seibert

            Teyonah Parris. And bruh…that was EASILY the best part of the movie. Slow clap for that.

    • Val

      What up, Bro Mo.

      • Brother Mouzone

        Heey, my favorite VSB super she-roe ValTron.

    • Brooklyn_Bruin

      That’s how Baltimore folks felt about the Wire

      • VeronicaMars

        Tru Tru

      • Brother Mouzone

        I feel you. The Wire was well written and presented 3 dimensional characters, however. I doubt if a movie could do that. It could have been Detroit, DC, Oakland, etc…and the story would have still been compelling

    • cysinblack

      You never liked RoboCop?

    • Another Man’s Rhubarb

      I am too, and there’s just no way I’m paying somebody to be pissed. Nope.

  • Seymore Cases

    I feel like an arsonist, but it’s hot in hurr, so I’m starting a fire. I’ve noticed some of this….uh….let’s call it ‘Seibert Shade.’ What are the origins? I’ve read VSB for a minute, but think I missed all that stuff. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/05e00b461400fa4db46099cc05221f74e0ffc9d07d13d87b37eab6373052cca9.png

    • LMNOP

      WELL. FIrst of all, he wrote this long azz post “maybe you’re single be because you’re wack” entirely dedicated to insulting Black women.

      Then another time he called a regular commenter a racist epithet.

      • Seymore Cases

        Ouch

      • Cosmic_

        Not gonna lie… I am a bit shocked everytime I see his name thinking…
        “They still letting this dude write?”

        • LMNOP

          Me too.

          • Val

            Me three.

            • Mary Burrell

              Val, who are we talking about the author of this piece?

              • Val

                Yes.

                • Mary Burrell

                  Oh wow didn’t know.

                  • Val

                    See LMNOP’s comment above.

              • Cheech

                Justin Don Biebert.

        • Mary Burrell

          Did this person say something misogynist about black women?

          • Jennifer

            Search his articles.

            • Mary Burrell

              Will do.

    • Nicholas Peters

      There would always be consequences for being a fan of that team and them having the b*lls to even let people know that.

      • Seymore Cases

        Hahahaha lol!

        The Star is like the ultimate trolling tool. Half my squad is going to be suspended by August at this rate. On a side note, I’m so jealous of most of the VSB right now. It’s that dumb hot (but pretty normal) where you question why you’re even walking outside.

        • miss t-lee

          It’s f*ckin’ terrible. It’s supposed to be 107 tomorrow and I ain’t even going out side after 11am.

  • Cosmic_

    I’ve decided for the sake of my mental well being, that I cannot watch movies where black people are killed or brutalized by whites. I saw the trailer and said out loud ” I can’t watch that one”.

    I mean we get plenty of that in the news EVERYDAY! Maybe that’s a poor excuse?????? But it’s a no for me…

    • Brooklyn_Bruin

      Them folks love to “explore” our pain.

      • Cosmic_

        I have a lot of thoughts about that…. but than again I have no words.

      • cysinblack

        Not an inch of us they have not already explored. History has them playing with our cells and bones.

        • Mary Burrell

          That’s very true I read about what they did with the bodies of dead black people. Making coin purses and jewelry from teeth and bones it horrific. Don’t know if it’s true and it could be an urban tale but I read George Washington’s teeth were from slaves.

          • cysinblack

            Must make them feel good to devalue a whole human population.

          • lkeke35

            Actually some of it is unfortunately true. I saw photos and read an interview of a white woman who showed off such a relic that she got from her father. He acquired it after a lynching. She didn’t mention details on how he acquired it.

            • Mary Burrell

              I think I read about that too.

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          • Monica Harris

            It’s very true. Explicitly detailed in the book, “Without Sanctuary” written by a white man who discovered his family had some of these “items” in their possession. He decided to research it. The stories in that book are just horrifying. Absolutely horrifying.

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            • Yay Radley

              Is this the book of lynching photography, or is there another I can BOLO for?

              • Monica Harris

                Ya know it’s been many years since I read it. There are photos but it’s not mostly photography if I recall.

      • Kenton Campbell

        But never say sorry. For any of it.

    • lkeke35

      Yeah, I pretty much automatically veto any movies and TV shows feature Black people being tortured or in pain. I don’t care who the creator is. I just can’t watch them.

      I’m on a limited income anyway, so I’m not going to the movies to cry, or be miserable. My criteria for every single movie I see is: Does it feature people of color, and will it make me smile.

      If the topic is important, I’ll read a book about it, not watch a misery movie based on it.

      • MSNY

        Free screening, left early….knew that I could not watch that film and go to work the next morning in right frame of mind…that’s a weekend/home film for me, definitely not mid-week.

    • PinkRose

      I’m STILL trying to get over seeing Hidden Figures with the Society of Women Engineers.?

      • Mary Burrell

        I did know about the black lady mathematicians either we have so many brilliant scholars among our people.

        • MSNY

          Saw that one at a free screening too…loved it…but was soo pissed off that I had never heard of those brilliant women.

      • I’m still pissed about that white savior bathroom scene the director added to it so #FFFFFF folks wouldn’t look bad. Completely changed how I interpreted the film and ruined most of it for me.

  • Nicholas Peters

    After hearing about that speech in Long Island…you should see it 3 times.

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