by Bonnie Anderson
The old, beautifully renovated, downtown Fox Theatre in Detroit was the fitting and appropriate venue for the World Premier of “Detroit”, the timely and complex new film by Director Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker). The film chronicles the race riots of 1967 but shines the light specifically on the now well-known Algiers Motel incident. Teamed again with screenwriter, Mark Boal, Bigelow delivers a terrifyingly relevant film in docudrama mode, that chronicles a history of racism still alive in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”.
Larry Reed (Algee Smith), lead singer of “The Dramatics”, his friend, Fred (Jacob Latimore), two white girls from Ohio, Karen (Kaitlyn Dever) and Julie Ann (Hannah Murray), Carl (Jason Mitchell) and some others take refuge inside a motel not too far from the scene of the riots. Carl, a local with a starter pistol fires out the window to emphasize his point, “When you’re black its almost like having a gun pointed at your face”. Right there the film heads straight to the heart and there is no turning back for the audience.
Three white Detroit police officers are called in to react to what has been identified by the National Guard as a “sniper”, that was Carl with a starter pistol. With a palpable eagerness, the three Detroit riot squad police (Will Poulter, Jack Reynor, Will Krasanski) storm the Algiers Motel. Once inside the motel, the police start yelling threats, stomping upstairs and banging on doors, “rounding up” the people who had been seeking respite at the motel. The dehumanizing tactics used by the police fueled and released the deep-seated racism and evil that lurks just below the surface, a racism that resulted in death for black Detroit citizens and affirmed abuse by the police, who were eventually acquitted.
Across from the glorious Comerica Park (home of the Detroit Tigers) at the Fox Theatre in Detroit Tuesday, July 25, 5,000 people of God were seated to watch the World Premiere of “Detroit”. As I sat there I recalled the courage and perseverance of the people of God that I have witnessed over many years. This is a must-see film. It is a painful reminder of our call to solidarity against the racism that is evident in our towns, cities and country. It isn’t getting any better.
How long will we put up with this?
Bonnie Anderson is a very active lay leader in her parish, diocese and in the wider Episcopal Church. She is an experienced community organizer and lives in suburban Detroit.