Free things don’t often come my way so you can imagine my suspicions when a free screening of Detroit was announced. However, I was soon to learn that Show Racism the Red Card was behind the film student’s dream and everything began to add up.
Detroit is based on the true events that happened in its namesake during the summer of 1967. Riots and rebellion raged over the city as black oppression reached a boiling point. It comes from director Kathryn Bigelow which is easy to tell if you’re an avid Bigelow fan. My boyfriend pointed out that the first half has the same feel as The Hurt Locker (2008) with its documentary-style camera work and this style worked perfectly with the subject matter.
After emailing Show Racism the Red Card and booking my space, I was quick to Google the events of Detroit in 1967 in order to make sure I was educated on the subject. Although I read up on the riots that took place, I failed to learn of the Algiers Motel Incident – the event Detroit aims to bring to light. However, I preferred going into the film not knowing of this incident as I could truly invest myself in the story, get lost in the characters, feel the true pain and betrayal as they did, which I believe added to the cinematic experience.
There were many people present at the screening which I found to be fantastic as it was mostly (if not completely) promoted on Facebook. There was even a school class in attendance! I cannot remember which school the pupils belonged to but it’s an idea that many schools should adopt. Detroit is the perfect film to show Modern Studies classes as well as RMPS studies. I truly believe the kids will have benefitted from the educational film – just as I did.
But onto the film itself. Detroit is a tough watch. Many of us at the screening confessed it wasn’t an enjoyable film but it was an experience none of us would change. The acting made the events in the film tug at the heart strings while the script worked flawlessly in their favour. There are even clips from real news programmes from the time interlaced with reenactments. These clips merged so perfectly together that I struggled to distinguish them apart. Overall Detroit is a difficult film to enjoy but a necessity we must all learn from.
Image from: Pioneer Press
After the film had finished, a panel discussion took place. Those speaking were Ude Adigwe (GMB Union), Professor Colin Clark (University of the West of Scotland), Margret Woods (Unite Against Fascism), Tommy Breslin (Scottish Union Learning) and even the film’s own sound recordist, Ray Beckett. Each person began saying what they personally thought of the film before the panel was open to questions from the audience. As someone who is terrible at creating questions, I awkwardly shifted my eyes side to side as I silently prayed someone would speak. Surprisingly my boyfriend raised his hand and asked if the film could be considered to be a war film as it shares many similarities to Bigelow’s previous works. Beckett nodded along with my boyfriend’s statement and he even shared the feeling on set was very similar to the set of Hurt Locker where he also recorded sound.
There was also a question that when asked I nodded in agreement. It was something I had been feeling but didn’t have the words yet to express. The asker put to the panel, “Would you say the film is set up in such a way that it somewhat justifies the police’s actions?”
From the murmurs in the room, it was obvious the opinion wasn’t a popular one.
The asker continued to explain that if there was a film about the holocaust, you wouldn’t show Jews acting out or causing havoc as it could act as a reason for the horrific event. However, the panel was quick to disagree with his point. Many of the panel pointed out that it’s hard to include every aspect of history in a film as they explained the riots only took place due to the build up of oppression the black community was feeling. Furthermore the reason so many individuals looted at the time was purely because so many of the community lived in poverty and most things stolen were basic necessities. Beckett was also quick to state that Bigelow was determined to express that the “riots” were not “riots”; they were a rebellion.
Someone also asked why Detroit was the focus of the film. They said that there are so many examples of racism, why focus on Detroit? The panel answered that in order to show a problem, it’s easier to first show a specific and work from there. It was also interesting to learn that the reason Algiers Motel was picked as the focus was because so few people actually know what happened. It was the mystery behind it that inspired the writer, Mark Boal.
Furthermore, I was incredibly touched to learn that the real Julie Hysell who survived the torment was present throughout the entirety of the shoot. When watching the film you think that the events must have taken place years ago – as they are far too barbaric and disgusting to happen now – but in reality it’s only been 50 years. Most of the survivors from that time are still alive so actors were able to meet who they were to portray. The fact that this horrific act of police brutality only happened 50 years ago and still happens to this day is a fact too disgusting to live with. Therefore, I will full heartedly support Show Racism the Red Card in their efforts to stomp out racism.
Together we can stop hatred and prejudice – but only if we do it together.
Image from: Show Racism the Red Card Scotland’s Twitter
Thank you for reading! Please look up Show Racism the Red Card – and remember to wear red on the 6th of October!
Image from: Bridge Magazine