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A great docudrama lost in the mire of indifference and politics

Written by Daniel Otero

Detroit 2017 movie, a film most people avoided watching


By: Daniel Otero


Since when telling the truth is a sin!  In the age of political correctness, sometimes being honest becomes blurred by so many gutless people who don’t like to look back and face their own history.


Several months ago, the docudrama “Detroit” was presented in theaters throughout the United States.  A potential Oscar contender, directed in a genius way by Kathryn Bigelow.  However, upon its release, the movie lost steam and flopped in theaters.


But it wasn’t like “Straight Outta Compton” (2015), which had a huge commercial success, but this bio-pic failed to win Oscar approval.  Since it went above a majority’s heads who couldn’t relate or comprehend what many minorities and especially African-Americans face on the streets of America.


But why did “Detroit” fail?  It had all the ingredients for success.  Not because the movie was badly made.  It was actually great and had moving scenes dealing with real life during the 1967 Detroit riots.


I gave the movie three-and-a-half-stars out of five.  But whatever efforts the actors and director placed into the movie, it was lost to movies like “American Assassin”.  Which budgeted almost doubled in its investment.


“Detroit” brought to the screen a topic often avoiding by the American public, that of race and African-American anger across the country.


The docudrama could have been a great success.  However, American escapism conquered the day, and this grand movie was lost to spectators.  When the majority chose lesser movies and fictional-action dramas like, “Baby Driver” that won in nods and money–stupidly over this great film.


“Detroit” is an uneasy film about what the country continuously experiences. Therefore, for most Americans, it was an issue to easily avoid.  Given the climate of the times and what’s happening in the country.  To topic is an ongoing problem in the United States.  Because African-Americans are still shot dead in the back on the streets without any justification and usually these people whom are shot, aren’t carrying any type of weapons.  Since African-Americans are eight times more likely to be illegally stopped and searched than Caucasians!


This angle is how racist-law enforcement is towards the black population.


The plot takes place when the police perform a sting in an after-hours nightclub in Detroit.  Here is when the problem ensues, as the people are being illegally detained and arrested for doing nothing wrong.  The black neighborhood explodes into looting, violence and burning down the buildings.

Things get out of hand, when the Army National Guard is called in with the mostly white police force searching for a ‘sniper’.  Which in reality was one of guest staying at the “Algiers Motel” who made the popping sounds playing with a toy gun.


The violence escalates, when law enforcement goes into an annex of the Algiers and begin to illegally interrogate, torture and kill several of the detainees.


This will lead to an investigation inside the police force and soon, the events will be placed on the back burner, and justice will honestly never be served.


The cinematography continues to demonstrate excellently what African-Americans suffer till this day on the streets.


Demonstrating that the U.S. is a deeply divided country on the race issue and in lacking the proper implementation of its Civil Rights laws.


In truth, African-Americans still feel that deep rooted resentment after 400 years of history.


Now, African-Americans have to comprehend one thing.  Black citizens have the right to be angry, but they don’t have the right to destroy their own properties, the neighborhood or those of their neighbors.


For a film which is now coming to China in video, downloads or through movie cinemas, it’s important to take note.


Theirs a lesson to be learned, the system cannot isolate minorities into a corner or treat them like lesser peoples.  If not, this is when rioting, violence and deaths occur.


In the end, I was hoping that “Detroit” could be saved and get a nod for the Academy Awards.  It will never happened, but it doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t strike a cord with audiences in the States and overseas.

About the author

Daniel Otero

A New Yorker who has been living in China for the past 10 years. He's a freelance writer/journalist and ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher.

A former member of the military with extensive travel to 50 countries and has lived in six.

Lover of life, good food, travel, writing and dealing with social issues.