Requiem For Detroit? Review: Motor City Out Of Gas

March 12, 2010 by  
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REQUIEM FOR DETROIT?: Saturday 13th March, BBC2, 9pm ALERT ME

Detroit was once the embodiment of the American Dream. The motor industry made its people wealthy and gave them the world’s first freeway and shopping mall.

But this dream has turned into a nightmare. When big business took a turn for the worse so did the city. Factories crumbled to ruin and hundreds of homes lie empty. Levels of poverty, unemployment and illiteracy are among the highest in the country. So what hope is there for the place once called ‘The City Of Champions’?

A film by Julien Temple (he directed the Come On Eileen video for Dexys Midnight Runners don’t you know) looks at the demise of Detroit as a warning to the industrial world.

There are interviews with the survivors who still call Detroit their home. Most of those interviewed have bohemian job titles like ‘artist’ and ‘beat poet’ and although they share some interesting thoughts you can’t help but want to hear the opinions of more ordinary residents.

We are shown round the empty factories by ‘urban explorers’ and the whole place has a post-apocalypse eeriness to it, yet at the end of the film we are told there is still hope for the crumbling city. We meet a handful of well-spoken hippy-type people who are turning industrial plots into farmland and going all Good Life on us.

Though the filmmakers seem to have faith, it’s hard to believe a bunch of new-age middle-class kids can really save Detroit from the rubble.

The film touches on the race riots, the union protests and rich musical legacy that put the city on the map. But that’s all history for Detroit now. Just as the car manufacturing industry ran out of gas, it seems the city has too.