Sunday, August 7, 2011

Detroit Wild City

Detroit Wild City begins with a union leader lamenting that the city’s parking lots are now empty and overrun with grass. An optimist, on the other hand, might say the parking lot is half-full (of grass, that is). Filmmaker Florent Tillon takes just such an approach, pausing only briefly to eulogize the old Detroit before moving on to capture the new. He interviews residents who explore the ruins of the city, others who fight urban blight with house-crushing parties or turn empty lots into neighbourhood gardens. There’s a measured optimism to the film, but it goes beyond any hippie-scavenger utopian thinking about how nice it would be to raise chickens in abandoned tenements. As one speaker cautions, you can’t have an entire city living on the subsistence model—there’s only so much decay to go around, after all. Man does not live by rubble alone. If the film is about nature versus the city, consider the outcome a draw. Detroit, for all the damage done, is not yet some post-apocalyptic ghost town, but neither is it likely to revive to its former might. But then what will become of it? Wild packs of dogs roam the street. Falcons nest in empty towers. Yet people still gather in the park on Sunday to listen to a man sing how the blues makes him happy. Life, weirdly enough, goes on. The city doesn’t die, so much as mutate.

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