There’s so much of American History that we either don’t know or don’t talk about. Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film Detroit deals with the latter. Taking place during the summer of 1967 when civil unrest ruled the streets of Detroit, a group of young black men and two white girls are beaten and interrogated by a trio of white police officers at The Algiers Hotel who were in search of a sniper they believed was firing at them from the hotel leading to three deaths.
Kathryn Bigelow has never been afraid to tell a story “the way it happened” meaning that she doesn’t shy away from making a bold statement and she doesn’t turn away from taking the time to tell that story. I spent the whole time watching Detroit waiting for something to happen, looking for a heroic moment, expecting something truly awful without realizing that what I was watching is what I needed to see happen, that there was no heroic moment in this tale (until the trial of the officers, those testifying against them were certainly heroic), and that everything that was happening was truly awful.
Maybe I’ve been desensitized to it all. Maybe society has been desensitized to it all. These days we’re exposed to racism daily through cell phone video on social media feeds. We see it happening to the point of it becoming a “here we go again” story. That’s when things get dangerous.
Detroit is not a story of blatant racism against black men by a white police force. There’s no doubt that it’s there but the white officers in this film hide it under the mask of their police badge. This all starts with a legitimate investigation. Police believed there was a sniper firing from the hotel window. The city had been plagued by snipers taking shots at police and the National Guardsman that were called in to assist with the rioting. It escalated quickly when police didn’t get the answers they were looking for and they went too far down a path to turn around. It escalated further when they found two young white girls with a black man in one of the hotel rooms. The group at the hotel also weren’t completely honest. One of them had fired a starter pistol out the window which is what police mistook for a sniper. It was never mentioned again until the officers were on trial. Of course, that doesn’t matter because racism is still racism no matter the excuse and the officers in this film had an agenda of racism. There is no doubt that things would have turned out differently in that hotel if it were full of white men.
At the end of the film, there’s an acknowledgement that due to a lack of a cohesive recollection of events the filmmakers took liberties with parts of the story. That doesn’t make it untrue and it certainly doesn’t make it a dark part of history that we’re still learning from.
I’m going to recommend Detroit because I think it’s important that we understand the darkest parts of our nation’s history so that we can begin to understand how to heal and move forward. We don’t know about the experience of other unless we learn about it.
Detroit is rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, and brief nudity. John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jason Mitchell, and Anthony Mackie star.
Also in theaters, this week…
The Dark Tower, the ambitious and expansive story from one of the world's most celebrated authors, Stephen King, makes its launch to the big screen. The last Gunslinger (Idris Elba) has been locked in an eternal battle with the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only the Gunslinger can defend the Tower from the Man in Black. it is rated PG-13 for thematic material including sequences of gun violence and action.
Halle Berry returns to the screen this week in Kidnap. She plays a single mom whose afternoon in the park turns into a nightmare when her son suddenly disappears. Without a cell phone and knowing she has no time to wait for police help, she jumps in her own car and sets off in pursuit of the kidnappers. A relentless, edge-of-your seat chase ensues, where Karla must risk everything to not lose sight of her son. In this action-fueled thriller, directed by Luis Prieto and from the producers of SALT and TRANSFORMERS, one mother's heroic attempt to take back her son leads her to ask herself how far she will go to save her child. It is rated R for violence and peril.
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