'Detroit' And My Thoughts As A Millennial Of Color

'Detroit' And My Thoughts As A Millennial Of Color

Sharing my thoughts on the directorial feats of Kathryn Bigelow.

The United States has a long, troubled history with race. One that presently and consistently casts doubt on the judiciary system and the authority of police meant to protect and serve. Although enraging and disturbing acts of racism, injustice, and prejudice still exist, awareness of past tragedies are aptly used as a reflection and testimonial to the plight of our current state of racial unrest.

Of the devices used for healing and understanding, is that of film. Filmmakers use their platform through cinema to capture the essence of a time; to not just entertain, but to inform. Kathryn Bigelow’s directorial portrayal of the Algiers motel murders during the 1967 Detroit riots attempts to do just that. Yet, some find fault with her directorial techniques and Mark Boal’s - the screenwriter - chosen story line.

The start of the film opens with a police raid on a bar occupied by black customers which later explodes into an all out riot by black neighborhood residents. At its outset, the film presents itself as a depiction of racially biased criminality of white officers against black residents. For some, it is easy to pigeonhole the film in this light: another film depicting racially motivated violence on people of color.

However, as it progresses, it becomes clear that the film takes on a greater responsibility. From its initial widening of the lens literally and figuratively, the audience is made to understand the gravity of the pilfering, chaotic riots.

But what is truly remarkable and worthy of attention is the sudden shift Bigelow makes by narrowing the perspective of the events that took place that night to a group of young people and eventually to that of Larry Cleveland, former member of a singing group called “The Dramatics”.

Unfortunately, this distinguishing characteristic of honing in on the perspective of these few characters to fully reveal the raw nature and first person aspect was lost to some.

Reading articles from renowned journalists and authors admitting thoughts such as “Just as the real raid and the torture were carried out by the police, the recreated scenes were carried out by Bigelow.” by Richard brody of The New Yorker was difficult to grasp.

Brody continued his distaste with the film by further diminishing Bigelow’s directing techniques to mere fetishism, calling Bigelow’s deliberate jilts, shakes, and bumps of the camera to emphasize strikes and blows as “meticulous dramatization of events intended to shock strikes me as the moral equivalent of pornography.”

While reading Brody’s article titled “The Immoral Artistry of Kathryn Bigelow’s ‘Detroit’”, I couldn’t help but feel conflicted. Yes, I completely understood his point of view. The most terrifying yet moving climax of the film illustrates the mistreatment of a group of young black men and two young white women by state police. This scene is being portrayed in full bloom with no sharp edit cuts to shelter the audience from the violence heard in wails and cries of plea.

However, I disagree with Brody’s insistence that Bigelow be apologetic for her deliberate directing choices. Why? Most moving films in cinema history have these same qualities and I believe that movies like Spielberg’s Schindler's List that Bigelow was saying to the audience that we deserve to experience the full emotional aspect of such despicable moments in all its shameful appeal.

We deserve to have if but a glimpse into the truth of what many people experienced, and what so many oppressed people of any color - whether directly targeted or standing alongside those who were targets - experienced during a time of severe racial anxiety, aggression, and misunderstanding.

I fear that the thoughts of Brody and other writers who share their truth and experience of the movie, though rightfully so, can skew the effectiveness of a film like Detroit. Of course, the film is not entirely without fault as it largely dismisses many fundamentally significant events that took place as a result of the Algiers Motel shooting, in which black community members came together to seek nonviolent justice for the deaths of the young men.

Plus, since Bigelow largely focused on the Algiers motel tragedy, the title of the film seemed broad. Still, Bigelow and Boal are doing just what many studio actors and directors have not done enough of: bring to life the untold stories of American minorities. That’s what this film is. An untold story, though dramatized, from the perspective of young people who experienced a tragedy, one that was never grieved or consolable.

Being a woman of color, I applaud Bigelow’s choice to not dilute the effects of the most violent and shocking scenes because she is allowing the audience to make their choice on how to respond to the treatment that happened outside of the telling of this story. As a director, she is saying that she trusts the audience's judgment and response to her portrayal.

Bigelow is saying that we can handle this abuse on screen because we have come a long way to know that violence only begets violence and that the only way to fight injustice anywhere at anytime is to know the past, to understand the present, and to prepare for the future.

The opinions of those writers who equate Bigelow’s directorial choices to pornorgraphy and no more than the fetishization of black men and black bodies send the message to me that they might not have fully understood Bigelow’s sensory immersion and have reduced the current state of Americans to mere children who get riled up by the sight of rage.

The best way to pick apart a film as a writer, whether a person viewed it positively or negatively, is to present your points effectively while allowing for the reader to make his or her own judgment of a film. This, however, I do not feel was fairly demonstrated on the part of the aforementioned journalists.

Therefore, I leave my readers with this: with any film, view the cinematic feats with an open mind and allow every sound and sight to engross you in a palpable journey. Leave the theatre with questions, but also insight. If you find yourself at odds with a moment on screen, then explore that state of friction instead of denying its potency.

Cover Image Credit: bridgemi.com

Popular Right Now

5 Perks Of Having A Long-Distance Best Friend

The best kind of long-distance relationship.

Sometimes, people get annoyed when girls refer to multiple people as their "best friend," but they don't understand. We have different types of best friends. There's the going out together best friend, the see each other everyday best friend and the constant, low maintenance best friend.

While I'm lucky enough to have two out of the three at the same school as me, my "low maintenance" best friend goes to college six hours from Baton Rouge.

This type of friend is special because no matter how long you go without talking or seeing each other, you're always insanely close. Even though I miss her daily, having a long-distance best friend has its perks. Here are just a few of them...

1. Getting to see each other is a special event.

Sometimes when you see someone all the time, you take that person and their friendship for granted. When you don't get to see one of your favorite people very often, the times when you're together are truly appreciated.

2. You always have someone to give unbiased advice.

This person knows you best, but they probably don't know the people you're telling them about, so they can give you better advice than anyone else.

3. You always have someone to text and FaceTime.

While there may be hundreds of miles between you, they're also just a phone call away. You know they'll always be there for you even when they can't physically be there.

4. You can plan fun trips to visit each other.

When you can visit each other, you get to meet the people you've heard so much about and experience all the places they love. You get to have your own college experience and, sometimes, theirs, too.

5. You know they will always be a part of your life.

If you can survive going to school in different states, you've both proven that your friendship will last forever. You both care enough to make time for the other in the midst of exams, social events, and homework.

The long-distance best friend is a forever friend. While I wish I could see mine more, I wouldn't trade her for anything.

Cover Image Credit: Just For Laughs-Chicago

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

8 Old Katelyn Tarver Songs You Probably Haven't Heard

None of her new songs will ever go as hard as "Chasing Echoes" and that's a fact.


Years ago, I found (through iTunes recommendations) a pretty cool female artist. Later found out she was on "Big Time Rush", and then I found out she had some new songs out. I decided to give her new songs a listen, and they're good. However, I prefer some of her older stuff, which sadly isn't on Spotify. Fortunately, YouTube exists, and I'm here to share the best ones.

1. "Wonderful Crazy"

This is just a fun, upbeat song for when you're having a good day. Would recommend playing in your car with the windows rolled down.

2. "Rain"

I have a very specific memory of a time when this song blessed my life, but for all intents and purposes, it is a beautiful and happy song.

3. "I'll Make It Real"

This is a beautiful song with a wonderful message about staying true to yourself. I used to listen to it on the way to school every day my senior year of high school.

4. "Something In Me"

Featured in the greatest show of all time, "South of Nowhere" season 1 episode 6. A very relatable breakup mood.

5. "Love Alone"

This is definitely the second-hardest-hitting song she's ever released. The fact that this is not on Spotify or even iTunes anymore is just not fair.

6. "Favorite Girl"

This one's cute and upbeat, a definite crush mood. Not on the same level as "Love Alone", but it's still underrated.

7. "Closer to My Heart"

Another cute love song. I'll tie it with "Everything" for cutest love song on her first album. Highly recommend both.

8. "Chasing Echoes"

Facts are facts and the facts are that Katelyn Tarver's new stuff could never go as hard as "Chasing Echoes". I can't even begin to explain how deeply these lyrics cut through me when I was fifteen. Even now, this song can take me all the way back. She is robbing us by not making this available on streaming services (or even to purchase). Katelyn, bring this song back, I am begging you.

Anyway, I'm still enjoying the new stuff and am excited to see what's next.

Related Content

Facebook Comments