Rachel Grady

Detropia opens on an abandoned residence being demolished as a wax-faced local reporter stands by, reporting on what most people in his audience already know – Detroit is an emptying, broken city, and it’s hard to imagine that will change any time soon. Detroit was once America’s most thriving city, a sprawling metropolis that was home to America’s most bankable manufacturing system, automobiles. But these days, the giant city (Detroit itself is a stunning 139 square miles) is home to something very different – a giant unemployment rate, a fractured citizenship, and the very real possibility that it will go bankrupt. Documentary directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp, The Boys of Baraka) attempt to tackle the many issues facing Detroit in their film, drawing from different perspectives to form a complete and complex picture of why Detroit is, as one of their subjects grimly announces, “never coming back.” With the automobile industry decamping for cheaper labor and bigger factories in other countries (mainly Mexico) and the constant threat of competitors (China and Japan specifically), Detroit has become a ghost city, one where nearly 90,000 houses lay vacant, one where their own mayor (Dave Bing) proposes a plan to relocate citizens from failing neighborhoods into ones more prone to survival in a desperate bid to keep the city operating. Detroit is, in short, a very unhappy city.

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Reading “Freakonomics” was sort of a badge of honor for presumably independent-thinking business school students back in college, but its effect cannot be overstated. It was part of the non-fiction revolution taking a deeper look into the world that we live in from a younger generation that refused to wear tweed jackets or talk quietly in class. A generation more pop-cultured than cultured. It makes sense that in adapting the best-selling book into a film, the younger generation of well-known documentary filmmakers would be asked to add their own true story about connectivity to the mix.

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Lauren Flanagan is bringing you reviews from the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. In the hot seat: an impartial look at one of the most controversial debates going on in America.

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For our final Tribeca review, we look at the disappointing ‘Freakonomics,’ which was the fest’s closing night feature.

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