REQUIEM FOR DETROIT?
Director: Julien Temple
Producer: George Hencken
Julien Temple's new film is a vivid evocation of an apocalyptic vision: a slow-motion Katrina that has had many more victims. Detroit was once America's fourth largest city.
Built by the car for the car, with its groundbreaking suburbs, freeways and shopping centres, it was the embodiment of the American dream.
But its intense race riots brought the army into the city. With violent union struggles against the fierce resistance of Henry Ford and the Big Three, it was also the scene of American nightmares.
Now it is truly a dystopic post-industrial city, in which 40 per cent of the land in the centre is returning to prairie. Greenery grows up through abandoned office blocks, houses and collapsing car plants, and swallows up street lights.
Police stations and post offices have been left with undrunk cups of coffee and unprocessed police files. There is no more rush hour on what were the first freeways in America. Crime, vandalism, arson and dog fighting are the main activities in once the largest building in North America. But it's also a source of hope.
Streets are being turned to art. Farming is coming back to the centre of the city. Young people are flocking to help. The burgeoning urban agricultural movement is the fastest growing movement in the US. Detroit leads the way again but in a very different direction.
Though hardly virgin docu territory, the Motor City is fortunate to get Julien Temple’s expert treatment in the informative and inspiring “Requiem for Detroit?” Unsurprisingly, given Temple’s impressive grounding in music and editing, the docu provides a superb history of “the Paris of the Midwest” from boom to bust, utilizing a heady mix of footage and tunes that keep his argument barreling forward to a hesitantly optimistic coda. First beamed on Blighty’s BBC2 in March, “Requiem” is deservedly making the fest rounds and picked up the Grierson Award in November for best historical docu...
...Alas, the story he has to tell is one of the saddest stories there is: it is the story of the end, but towards the latter part of the film, there is also the solid hope of a new beginning. The images of destruction in Detroit are so shocking, so unbelievable, that we truly do see the End of the World in front of our eyes. Words are inadequate to describe this film, you have to see it. Nothing you have ever heard or imagined can prepare you to see on film the true state of affairs in Detroit today. This is the story that all the newspapers and magazines of the world do not cover, will not cover, dare not cover. Just think of any city you know, and imagine it abandoned and ruined, and you have the Detroit of today and your favourite city sometime tomorrow....
...These feelings returned vividly as I watched Julien Temple's stupendous Requiem for Detroit?, a thrilling piece of film-making that swooped through the city's history and its spectacular blossoming into the hub of the global automobile industry, before charting its equally astounding decline...