Who Was “Detroit’s” Intended Movie audience?

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Who Was “Detroit’s” Intended Movie audience?

can sensitively and appropriately depict black pain and oppression. Bigelow, knowing she didn’t have the cultural heft, asked herself that question, too. “I’m white, am I the right person to do it? I thought, ‘Am I the perfect person to tell this story? No,’” she told “Variety.” “However, I’m able to tell this story, and it’s been 50 years since it’s been told.”

With good intentions (and I convey without sarcasm) as a way to leverage her white privilege Bigelow wanted to expose today’s indiscriminate death sentence black men (Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayon Martin, Philando Castile, to name a few,) encounter too often with white cops in 2017 that’s hauntingly similar to what black males encountered with white law enforcement officers five decades ago in the 1967 riot. Bigelow’s high hopes was that the film would spark our country’s needed dialogue on race; therefore, emphatically stating to “New York Times,” that ”To do-nothing was not an answer.”

Moreover, Bigelow felt given her filmmaking crops and a top-notch all white crew with one renown black consultant (Detroiter and scholar Michael Eric Dyson) she's equipped to tell the story. Sadly, she wasn’t. The balance between depicting the horrors of racism without valorizing or demeaning black trauma was eclipsed in “Detroit”, inviting an avalanche of African American movie and cultural critics to chime in.

New York Times critic John Eligon, for example, stated that “Bigelow found herself engaging in another basic journalistic practice: immersing herself in unfamiliar lives and experiences, and trying to make sense of them." It’s too simplistic to say that stories of people of color should only be the province of people of color. A similar polemic was once expressed about Shakespearean plays having only white actors back in the day?

Bigelow’s problem, for me, is that she didn’t tell a good story, because she did not have the complete history of the riot, but told the story, nonetheless. Perhaps, had Bigelow had access to John Hersey’s book “The Algiers Motel Incident”—which has police records, series of interviews from survivors, witnesses and families of the slain men- she might have presented a better narrative.

Instead, Bigelow did what she does best -an auteur-driven film—displaying her vast cinematic skills to obfuscate her lack of knowledge and absence of a plausible narrative arc. With graphic images of white barbaric cruelty inflicted on black bodies the main character unquestionably is violence. The emotional arc of “Detriot” being black helplessness, the film evokes anger rather than thought, political action, and coalition building in this era of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Bigelow not only fails at Screenplay 101 she tanked her efforts to make a difference.

How much of Bigelow’s passion to tell the story of the 1967 Detroit riot -especially in the way she did—was out of white privilege, white guilt, arrogance, or ignorance I’ll leave it up to the viewer to decide.