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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 8:42 pm | Fair 54º


Cinema in Focus: ‘Detroit’

3 Stars — Disturbing

Chaotic historical moments are often difficult to depict. This is true not only due to the upheaval of the situation but also because of the complexity of the story.

In Detroit, the cinematic mastery demonstrated by Kathryn Bigelow as director and Mark Boal as writer is stunning. Revealing the same skills we saw in their Academy Award-winning Best Picture, Hurt Locker, in which their partnership was also awarded Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, the film begins in chaos and slowly focuses on a specific group of people who experienced the injustice in very personal ways.

Though a true story and disturbing to view, the film ends by noting that some of the story was a creative adaptation of eyewitness accounts and court documents.

Having explained that the migration of African-Americans to Northern cities following World War II to find employment, the film also describes that in Detroit these black Americans were kept in densely populated areas and brutally policed by an all-white police force. This recipe for racial injustice came to a head when an unlicensed black drinking club was raided in a very public way, which set off a time of rioting.

In the midst of this chaos we begin to focus in on three specific white officers and a group of black men.

What brings the officers together with these particular black men is the incident at the Algiers Motel. With everyone on edge due to the riots, the Detroit police, the Michigan State Police and the Michigan National Guard were enforcing a curfew outside the motel.

Fearing snipers, they heard shots coming from the motel and descended upon its small annex in force. It was then that the cruelty and murderous police brutality came to full form.

We won’t spoil the event itself or the subsequent court case that followed, but the case is profoundly disturbing because of some current police officers who brutalize and kill black people without being held accountable by our justice system.

In this film, the true nature of the evil of racism is experienced up close and personal. It is our hope that this film will help bring about change not only in each of each of our hearts but in our nation as a whole.


» It is difficult to imagine the kind of racial hatred seen by the police officers in this film. But what is even more disturbing is the words of a National Guard officer who is told of the brutal actions of these three police officers and he doesn’t want to get embroiled in a “civil rights” issue so he withdraws his men. This lack of concern and not wanting to get personally involved is a convicting moment. What are you doing to bring the rights of our nation to every person? What would you have done and what are you doing?

» There were also two white 18-year-old women found with the black men in the hotel. They are equally treated unjustly. Why do you think that occurred?

» By the end of the film, we see the PTSD of that moment stealing the lives of the black survivors. In showing that long-term result of the abuse of power we realize that there are evils so devastating that we are never the same. Have you experienced evil like that? How are you seeking help to heal from it?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is the retired pastor of Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara and lead superintendent of Free Methodist Church in Southern California. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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