‘Detroit’ – Distilled

‘Detroit,’ it could be argued, is the story of race and racism in America, bursting onto our screens at a painful moment in America’s painful history. Think Charlottesville, think of Trump’s pardoning of Sheriff Arpaio, think of – how many? – black motorists in towns across the US pulled over and shot for some (sometimes imagined) traffic offence.

But this movie, of course, is set fifty years ago, in 1967, during the Detroit riots: that tells you something right there, doesn’t it? Focusing close-up, in almost unbearable detail, on the murder by police of three young black men at the Algiers Motel, it almost defies words.

So I won’t give you any. All I’ll say is, go see it.

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Verdict: You can’t bear to watch it. You can’t help watching it.

Your tipple of choice? No booze. This movie leaves you stone cold sober.

2 responses to “‘Detroit’ – Distilled”

  1. Mark Lafer Consulting Avatar
    Mark Lafer Consulting

    It is unlikely that local theaters will show the movie. Nor am I likely to choose to see it, when it arrives on HBO or another subscription channel. Fifty years may be more than a lifetime to many. However, I remember both the Detroit tragedy and the more important reality that it followed others that occurred close to my urban New Jersey home.

    Newark exploded and imploded just before Detroit in 1967. However, the 1964 uprising in Paterson, NJ, – the county seat of Passaic County – in the summer of 1964, was local for me. I still have vivid memories of tractor-trailers hauling tanks down Main Ave (a short block from my front stoop), Passaic, on their way to Paterson.

    Finally, I gained a valuable lesson from the juxtaposition of Newark and Detroit. On a Thanksgiving 1967 visit to relatives, living in a Detroit suburb, my cousin was about to drive the family housekeeper home to the city. He quietly asked if I wanted to see where the riots occurred. The trip was somewhat surreal. The working class neighborhood at the edge of the destruction was a series of small, neat detached homes. They were not the row after row of slum tenements that characterized the Newark, Paterson, and – smaller – Passaic ghettoes. Appearances surely may be deceptive.


    1. A moving response: history is personal, as we both know, from our different histories.


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