'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

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To The Boy Who Will Love Me Next

If you can't understand these few things, leave before things get too involved

To the boy that will love me next, I need you to know and understand things about me and my past. The things I have been though not only have shaped the person I’ve become, but also sometimes controls my life. In the past I’ve been used, abused, and taken for granted, and I want something real this time. The guys before you were just boys; they didn’t know how to treat me until it was too late. They didn’t understand how to love me, until I broke my own heart. Before you truly decide to love me I want you to understand these things.

When I tell you something, please listen.

I’m my own person, I want to be loved a certain way. If I ask you to come over and watch movies with me please do it, if I ask for you to leave me alone for a few hours because it’s a girl’s night please do it. I don’t just say things to hear my own voice, I say things to you because it’s important to my life and the way I want to be loved. I’m not a needy person when it comes to being loved and cared for, but I do ask for you to do the small things that I am say.

Forgive my past.

My past is not a pretty brick road, it is a highway that has a bunch of potholes and cracks in it. I have a lot of baggage, and most of it you won’t understand. But don’t let my past decided whether you want to love me or not. My past has helped form who I am today, but it does not define who I am. My past experiences might try and make an appearance every once in a while, but I will not go back to that person I once was, I will not return to all that hurt I once went though. When I say those things, I’m telling the complete and honest truth. I relive my past every day, somethings haunt me and somethings are good reminds. But for you to love me, I need you to accept my past, present and future.

I’m just another bro to the other guys.

I have always hung out with boys, I don’t fit in with the girl groups. I have 10 close girlfriends, but the majority of my friends are guy, but don’t let this scare you. If I wanted to be with one of my guy friends I would already be with him, and if you haven’t noticed I don’t want them because I’m with you. I will not lose my friendships with all my guy friends to be able to stay with you. I will not cut off ties because you don’t like my guy friends. I have lost too many buddies because of my ex-boyfriends and I promised myself I wouldn’t do that again. If you don’t like how many guy friends I have you can leave now. Don’t bother trying to date me if you can accept the fact I’m just another bro.

I might be a badass, but I actually have a big heart.

To a lot of people I come off to be a very crazy and wild girl. I will agree I can be crazy and wild, but I’m more than that. I’m independent, caring, responsible, understanding, forgiving, and so such more type of woman. Many people think that I’m a badass because I don’t take any negatively from anyone. Just like we learned when we were younger, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Most people can’t do that in today’s world, so I stick up for myself and my friends. I don’t care what anyone thinks about me, or their option on how I live my life. The only thing I care about is being able to make myself happy. Even though I’m an independent woman, understand that I do have a big heart. Honesty when I truly care for someone I will do just about anything they ask, but don’t take advantage of this. Once you take advantage of this part of me, all respect will be lost for you.

I’m hard to love.

Sometimes I want to be cuddle and get attention, and sometimes I don’t want you to talk to me for a couple hours. Sometimes I want you to take me out for a nice meal, but sometimes I want a home cooked meal. Every day is different for me, sometimes I change my mind every hour. My mood swings are terrible on certain days, and on those days you should probably just ignore me. I’m not easy to love, so you’ll either be willing to find a way to love me, or you’ll walk out like so many others have.

I’m scared.

I’m scared to love someone again. I’ve been hurt, heartbroken, and beat to the ground in my past relationships. I want to believe you are different, I want to hope things will truly work out, but every relationship has always ended up the same way. I’m scared to trust someone, put my whole heart into them, just to be left and heartbroken again. I sick and tired of putting my whole body and soul into someone for them to just leave when it is convenient for them. If you want to love me, understand it won’t be easy for me to love you back.

When “I’m done.”

When I say “I’m done” I honestly don’t mean that I’m done. When I say that it means I need and want you to fight for me, show me why you want to be with me. I need you to prove that I’m worth it and there’s no one else but me. If I was truly done, I would just walk away, and not come back. So if I ever tell you, “I’m done,” tell me all the reasons why I’m truly not done.

For the boy who will love me next, the work is cut out for you, you just have to be willing to do it. I’m not like other girls, I am my own person, and I will need to be treated as such. For the boy that will love me next, don’t bother with me unless you really want to be with me. I don’t have time to waste on you if you aren’t going to try and make something out of us. To the boy who will love me next, the last thing I would like to say is good luck, I have faith in you.

Cover Image Credit: Danielle Balint

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