Directed by: Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady
90 minutes

New England Premiere

2012 Grand Jury Prize Winner

In 1930, Detroit was America’s fastest-growing city. Today, in a postindustrial America, it is the country’s fastest-shrinking one. Formerly home to just under 2 million inhabitants, Detroit’s population has dropped by 50% over the last 50 years. In the last decade, the entire state of Michigan has lost 50% of its manufacturing jobs. One of the city’s remaining residents, a United Auto Workers union leader, sums it up best: “When the (industrial) plants left, the neighborhood left.” Thus, what was not so long ago a thriving, middle-class landscape is now strewn with dilapidated, abandoned homes, weeded-over vacant lots, and other remnants of its thriving past—such as Michigan Central Station, a massive, once-glorious but now-crumbling train depot, unused for decades.

In its meditative, collage-like approach, DETROPIA alternates stunning imagery of the city’s empty streets and ravaged, decaying landscapes with profiles of its resilient citizens: for example, a young blogger and coffee-shop barista who explores abandoned buildings as an archeologist would, and a colorful owner of a restaurant and lounge that may be the only sign of life in one disappearing neighborhood. Although many interviewees are determined to remain, and the downtown area has recently seen a significant increase in its young adult population, Detroit remains on the verge of bankruptcy and a shell of its former self. DETROPIA beautifully, tragically captures a city in flux and acts as a cautionary tale for other urban communities on the brink of financial collapse.

—Chris Kriofske