Batten Down The Hatches, The Next Storm Of Detroit Docs Is Nigh

Illustration for article titled Batten Down The Hatches, The Next Storm Of Detroit Docs Is Nigh

If you thought the stream of Detroit documentaries had finally slowed to a drip since the automotive industry is on a solid rebound, think again.


We already knew that filing for Chapter 9 would mean endless galleries of empty houses, alarmist broadcast news reports with snippets of your favorite classic Motown hits and former residents waxing nostalgic about growing up in Detroit before moving to (insert faraway city here) to get away from it all. It has happened for the past five years and the cycle is restarting now. It's so predictable, you can easily make a drinking game out of it.

What I was really, really hoping this time around was that eager documentarians would take their cameras elsewhere, like perhaps Baltimore or Chicago, if they really wanted to make some more cautionary-tale poverty porn. Nope, not so much.


Case in point: Over at r/Detroit, there's already been an inquiry into how to make a documentary comparing the city's poor residents with the billions of dollars in art in the Detroit Institute of Arts, which may or may not have to give up its assets as the city plows through bankruptcy. (My guess is it won't. Can we stop scaring the rich people who donate to the DIA?)

"Yes, I know I might die," asserts our cameraman after asking how to go about the documentary. I mean, we all might die at some point. But if you're so frightened of dying in Detroit, why even take the risk? Oh, and way to make presumptions about the people you're asking for help from.


As the days go by, expect to see a lot more requests for documentary help on r/Detroit, Hot Fudge Detroit, DetroitYes and all the other forums. (Have you already gotten a request by email or Facebook message? Send it to me and we'll share in the ridiculousness of it all.)

Meanwhile, if you really, really think you'll make the next great Detroit documentary (or short film), you can check the following films for inspiration: "Detropia," "Requiem for Detroit," "A Girl's Guide to Detroit, "Lemonade: Detroit," "BURN," "Searching for Sugarman," "Brewster Douglass, You're My Brother," "Detroit Lives," "Redefining Dreamland," "Deforce," "Urban Roots," "Detroit in Overdrive," "Street Fighting Man," "The Spirits of Detroit," "Motor City Pride," "Detroit Blues & Beyond" and "Louder than Love." (Honorable mention: Chris Hansen's "Dateline" special.)


If you don't feel like Googling each of those titles, I'll just make it easy for you:.

Step 1: Go to the eastside and find some poor black people to talk to.
Step 2: Go to Corktown and find some young white people to talk to.
(Optional step: If you're feeling a tinge of liberal guilt, you can talk to Larry D'Mongo for a token non-poor black person.)
Step 3: While in Corktown, get exterior shots of the train station and Slows.
Step 4: (Please listen carefully, as the menu options have changed since the last major local bankruptcy.) Get an exterior shot of Whole Foods.
Step 5: Here's some untagged '60s-era b-roll of The Temptations and here's that photo of The Supremes walking through the projects. Splice it in accordingly.
Step 6: Don't forget that fast-motion sunrise and sunset over the city skyline!

Good luck!



An unamerican here. I went to Detroit for the first time a year ago. I haven't seen any of those documentaries, but I knew all the stories, and tried my best to forget all of them. I stayed just east of downtown (Lafayette Park), and mostly walked around downtown and the river walk, and drove down Gratiot. The thing that struck me most was the emptiness; the lack of people, houses, and amenities- even in downtown.

I'll go again in a few weeks - where is the literal and figurative other side? Corktown, midtown?

(I promise not to make a documentary)