REVIEW: ‘Detropia’ powerfully conveys city’s decline

By Sarah Albright

While it’s not the most feel-good movie of the year, “Detropia,” an independent film by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, will have you mourning at the haunting loss of life in Detroit and thinking critically about the future of American cities.  Detroit is a city that was once booming with life and industry, especially from African Americans who were trying to escape oppression from the South.  A few decades later, however, and the city is turning into a ghost town.  According to the film, in the 1930s, Detroit was the fastest growing city in America, and now, it is the quickest shrinking city with over 100,000 people who have migrated out of the city.

'Detropia' is out now. (Photo provided by

The film walked viewers through abandoned neighborhoods and buildings to convey the emptiness and decay that has overcome the city.  Viewers experienced first-hand the problems this city is currently facing from residents who call Detroit their home.  From infamous video bloggers to jazz club owners, many Detroit natives are feeling the pinch of the city’s fiscal problems.  The film illuminated the emotional elements of the city’s natives beautifully, and as a viewer, I felt for them so deeply.  With each new person presented in the film came a new facet of the problems within the city, and it left me wanting to grab my cape and do something about the heartache and decay taking over the beloved city.

Although the film did an incredible job at informing its viewers and even inspiring its viewers to at the very least think about these issues, one aspect of the film they should have expounded upon was the arts movement that is hitting Detroit.  While most of the film is gloom and doom, this one brief segment in the film is the glimmer of hope.  According to the film, the 2010 census showed a 59% increase of young people moving into the city.  The reason behind this is the fact that young artists can get lofts for an extremely reasonable price, and they can experiment with their art within the city.  A community of artists is forming rapidly within this city.  While some call Detroit a wasteland, these artists call it a gold mine.

While I am not an expert on film, I thought the film did an excellent job at telling this painful story about a city of the brink of extinction.  It is a film I highly encourage people to go see because of the thought-provoking material and the heart wrenching tales told through this film.  If nothing else, the film should leave you in an uncomfortable state and wondering about the bigger picture.  If this could happen to one city in America, what is to stop it from happening to others?

4/5 stars

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