I am a movie connoisseur. I’ll watch movies in any genre except horror, and now because real life is so filled with violent images, I stay away from movies with extreme violence. I watch movies for enjoyment but also for knowledge. Even movies that are purely entertainment contain life lessons. This is a three-part series on movies I’ve seen recently. They are part movie review, part social commentary. Do you agree or disagree with my views? What movies have made an impact on you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section. As always, thanks for reading.
There was a chorus of discontent around the docudrama, Detroit by the Academy-Award winning director, Kathryn Bigelow when it opened. Black folks had issues with a white director and missing Black women. Some call it a horror film, and someone I know left the theater before the movie ended. I decided to see it anyway and form my own opinion. I refused to read any articles or movie reviews because I didn’t want to be influenced by the thoughts of others.
I had seen Bigelow’s Hurt Locker, and thought it was excellent. So, I knew that the movie wouldn’t sugarcoat what happened at the Algiers Motel in July of 1967. Civil unrest plagued the city. There was rioting, looting and snipers taking shots at the police and National Guard who were charged with restoring order.
It was the 60s and racial tensions were at an all-time high. Some young Black people were partying at the hotel and amongst them were two white women. When shots rang out, Detroit police officers thought it was a sniper and rounded up everybody. The sadistic officers were determined to coerce a confession out of the party goers by any means necessary.
It was unflinching unrest and brutality in your face. The only things filling the screen were looting and rioting, burning buildings and brutalized bodies. I was exhausted before the movie ended and was ready for it to be over. It was literally black and white. No slices of life. We got our asses beat and killed. No justice. The End.
The violence against Black bodies was so unrelenting that by the end I was numb. The movie focuses primarily on what happened at the hotel and the trial after. So, all the characters are flat. They are not complex human beings with lives beyond the walls they find themselves trapped behind. The characters are victims which leaves little room for understanding and/or empathy. It's a voyeuristic look at Black pain.
Though we live in the spaces of oppression, we are more than our bruised and battered bodies. We are more than chalk outlines on the ground. There is ecstasy in our agony and pleasure in our pain. Watching the unrelenting brutality of the police officers was too much. After about 90 minutes I had nothing left in me to feel for characters not because I didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t afford to. Disconnecting became an act of self preservation because the movie is 2’22” minutes long and it mirrors what is happening today.
Things happen to us as a result of racism and discrimination. But it is not the sum of our existence. The Soul of Black people is missing from this film. In the midst of our trauma we live. We love. We laugh. We’re not hiding in the shadows; we’re moving toward the light.