You say free will. A term with layers upon layers of complexities. But we didn’t choose to be black. They didn’t either. Who does?
Detroit is a special film. It details the social unrest of a restless people. It’s also a brutal film. Have you ever been beaten by a police officer?
Nevertheless, Detroit starts conversation. It brings the color dilemma back to the forefront. And it does so with pride. The film, by director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal, takes us back to 1967, and gives us a harrowing display: riots. Senseless violence. Lyndon Johnson’s America, defined by civil rights as an initiator of violence and negotiator of peace, saw the city of Detroit in ruins. But the movie takes specific focus on a single event known as the Algiers Motel Incident.
Taking place on the evening of July 25th, the night was notorious for the brutal deaths of three black men: Carl Cooper (Jason Mitchell), Aubrey Pollard (Nathan Davis Jr.), and Fred Temple (Jacob Latimore), along with the subsequent beatings, torture and harassment of 7 other men and two white women (played by Kaitlyn Dever and Hannah Murray). Conducted in a fashion that can only be called sadistic, officer Philip Krauss (Will Poulter) of the Detroit police department forces the hotel-goers in the hallway, and to get them to spill information, insists on “killing” them one by one. This is all public information. And the only Black cop present during the scene, Melvin Dismukes, played by John Boyega of Star Wars fame, isn’t spared either.
It’s been a solid 50 years. Yet, the black man is still not free – at least as far as Detroit is concerned. For his future, dictated by a poverty rate 3x higher than the national average in both Detroit and Flint, is an order that hasn’t broken significantly even after the departure of the first Black President. Detroit is a callback to the roots, not an aversion to truth. It’s a metaphor for the random, lottery-like nature of our world, and the circumstances that pit people – human beings – against one another. And it’s hard to find a film on race that doesn’t completely paint the white man as a villain. Detroit doesn’t do that. The white man laughs, he drinks coffee! He has kids to protect. He makes mistakes! He’s human. But he’s an unfortunate victim of the times; plagued by ignorance. The root of all violence. Could a film be more honest?
It’s easy to dismiss Detroit as another film in the ongoing trend of movies that appeal to the older crowd, but this one is a bit different. It’s arguably an historical achievement, and should be heralded as such.
Detroit hits theatres on August 4th.
We screened the film at The Crosby Hotel. Actor John Boyega made a surprise appearance to introduce the film.