Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Detroit Ruins Film

18. March 2005 • Scott Trudeau
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The anonymous urban explorer at detroitblog writes about tonight’s screening of Detroit: Ruin of a City at Rackham Ampitheater as part of the Ruins of Modernity conference.

I heard the filmmakers on local TV news this week and saw them in some clips from the movie, droning on in pedantic, haughty tones, lamenting the ruin of a city they’ve never been to before and apparently know nothing about. One of them referred in condescending tones to the Michigan Central Station as a “monument to political impotence.” Unlike the European Union, I suppose. Typical Euros—wave the magic wand of government and voila! Everything will be better. Forget decisive factors such as population loss, economic collapse, etc. It’s the lack of will on the part of our bureaucracies that’s at fault here.

Also noteworthy is the fact that the article refers to the quite-famous Fisher Body 21 plant as “Carter Color,” based solely on a subsidiary logo painted on a water tower. Great local reporting skills as usual, Freep reporters. Nice to know you put in the time on research. Jeez, even a quick Google address search could’ve clued you in on some history.

But all you need to know about the film is this—there is not one mention of Coleman Young. It’s like doing a film about space travel without mentioning Neil Armstrong.

> detroitblog entry
> Detroit Free Press: A CRITICAL LOOK AT DETROIT: 2 filmmakers team up to scrutinize the city block by block
> Upcoming.org entry
> Ruins of Modernity Conference
> Detroit: Ruin of a City web site

UPDATE: This showing sold out. They’re planning a second screening, but I’m not sure when. If you made it in, I’d like to hear thoughts on it.



  1. Well, hell—maybe I won’t go. I just tried the 8:30 showing and it was “sold out.” Do I really want to sit in Rackham among a bunch of people who look like OFW apparatchiks (just kidding) and sweat through a ladida “gorgeous awfulness of urban decay” flick for an hour and a half? Probably, but I do have two hours to think about it.
       —Lazaro    Mar. 18 '05 - 09:34PM    #
  2. My inbox says: Second screening – Friday, 25 March, 7 pm. Rackham Auditorium.
       —Murph    Mar. 19 '05 - 01:18AM    #
  3. Don’t believe the hype. Really. 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back. I don’t know how this two-bit camcorder book report got so much publicity.
       —Brandon    Mar. 19 '05 - 01:32AM    #
  4. It was kinda interesting, but I suspect it would have been that way to someone who doesn’t know all that much about the city (part of my reason for going). The quality, though, was enormously haphazard, the editing shit. How the hell did they get MICHAEL FRIGGIN’ NYMAN to do the soundtrack? Was it another one of his they just decided to steal?
       —Lazaro    Mar. 19 '05 - 01:54PM    #
  5. It got so much publicity because it talks about a ruined Detroit. It is so much fun to say how bad the place is. People jump to see it.
       —Mark    Mar. 20 '05 - 06:13PM    #
  6. Detroit has done a lot of bad things, but ruin film? Next you’ll be saying it ruined music!
       —js    Mar. 21 '05 - 03:06PM    #
  7. AFAIK, there are three showings now due to demand: the first one was supposed to be at 8:30 at Rackham on Friday 3/18. It ‘sold out’. They gave out passes for one of the next two showings:

    (2) Rackham, Friday 3/18, 10 PM

    and

    (3) Rackham, Friday 3/25, 7 PM

    I have passes to the last showing.
       —KGS    Mar. 21 '05 - 04:21PM    #
  8. I agree with the troubling tone of condescension and that it was a poorly made film. My biggest concern, however, was the reaction of the audience. Can somebody tell me what was so funny?
       —SLP    Mar. 23 '05 - 11:52AM    #
  9. Possibly the hard-earned wisdom of various salts-o’-the-earth, compensating for their living in Detroit with cracks the audience mistook for something out of Mitch Albom? It seemed to me that the audience was classic… I hate to keep saying NIMBY. I’d say “academic”, but that’s an awful big net (and covers people like Brandon, who couldn’t stand the film), so NIMBY it’ll have to be. They can laugh because they don’t have these problems… yet?
       —Lazaro    Mar. 23 '05 - 04:48PM    #
  10. I’m hardly an academic, Laz. Really. I just take (mostly) practical classes so I can work in the “real world” in a couple years. I’m done with that scene for the foreseeable future.
       —Brandon    Mar. 23 '05 - 07:41PM    #
  11. No offense intended, Brandon. I actually couldn’t remember whether or not I considered myself an academic while I was a grad student (and it was history, not urban planning, so I think it was a little harder to dissociate myself). All of which prepared me nicely for my service-sector job (again, history, not urban planning).

    I have a feeling I’m about to get my clock cleaned over on the “Nader” thread.
       —Lazaro    Mar. 23 '05 - 09:04PM    #
  12. i’m from rural ny and want to visit the motor city. so much good happening ,want to see it.
    the phoenix will rise…buy american dammit


       —stosh z    Nov. 7 '06 - 05:02AM    #