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One would assume, given the film’s title that it aims to chronicle what transpired during one of the most deadly and destructive riots in U.S. history. The film does this, but only to the extent of contextualizing what it really is about, which is the gruesome Algiers Motel incident that occurred on the riot’s third day.
This is a very manipulative tactic on behalf of the film’s producers, not just in terms of giving the film a title that’s bigger than its scope, but it lures audiences into experiencing an interpretation of the incident that rivals that of torture porn.
For those who aren’t aware of the Algiers Motel incident, to loosely summarize: Detroit Police raided the motel in search of a lethal weapon, which never existed, and held its black patrons hostage, killing a few in the process, as a method of interrogation.
There’s no doubt that the United States has an issue with police brutality against black people, especially men. Thus, it is welcomed when any individual or entity, Hollywood included, wants to shine light on the seriousness of this epidemic. However, through its storytelling elements: the excessive emphasis on gore, the physical and verbal abuse, and near-cartoonish cowering by the hostages via extreme close-ups, “Detroit” confuses any message of it being a protest against American law enforcement’s biggest ugly truth. It can actually be debated that the film endorses police brutality; given the amount of screen time and tact it devotes to its violence.
Surely there will be naysayers to this, who will tout the film’s big-budget education focus on a not too well known event in African American history, which is a scarcity in Hollywood. This is prompted by not only the film’s insight into the Detroit riots, but an animated 5-minute opening sequence chronicling the history of black people from the Atlantic slave trade all the way to the Jim Crow era— a cheesy device that was probably attached to the film at the last minute to make it seem less like the slasher film it really is. The only response that can be given to any naysayers is: so what?
No matter the format, whether it’s a major motion picture or grainy cell phone video, seeing black people lose their lives at the hands of police stings all the same. Hence, Hollywood shouldn’t be allowed special, artistic license on the African American experience simply because it decides to be charitable.
Hopefully, “Detroit” will not become a darling of the upcoming awards season; due to it’s supposed political stance and timeliness. If it does, that would be an absolute travesty.
The comparisons of “Detroit” to Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation” are startling. One of the major critical darlings of last year before being sabotaged by mainstream media, using a decade-old rape allegation as bait, Parker’s film was unique in the sense that it reversed the trope of blacks in period piece race dramas being portrayed as submissive and cowardly. In it, the black characters actually fought back, in a rather heroic and unprecedented way not quite seen before in a major film.
Imagine how it would look if Kathryn Bigelow, the director of “Detroit,” and her team racked up praise and accolades on the heels of Parker’s now apparent blackballing. This wouldn’t just insult the African American community within the entertainment industry, but outside of it as well.