Independent Lens | Detropia
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Watch Friday, January 30, 2015 at 7pm on WORLD.

"The most moving documentary I've seen in years. Both an ardent love letter to past vitality and a grateful salute to those who remain in place." – David Denby, The New Yorker

Detroit was the birthplace of the middle class, an industrial utopia where anyone who worked hard enough could experience the American Dream. Today, Detroit is on the brink of bankruptcy. In the past ten years, this iconic Midwestern city has lost 25 percent of its population and 50 percent of its manufacturing jobs. Local officials are in the midst of the most dramatic “downsizing” of an American city ever seen: demolishing thousands of homes, reconsolidating massive tracts of excess land, cutting basic services, and even encouraging Detroiters in the most marginal neighborhoods to move. Detroiters who have stuck with the city are at the breaking point. Despite these desperate conditions, there is still an allure to Detroit artists; curious outsiders flock to the city in search of inspiration and opportunity.

Detropia is a cinematic tapestry that chronicles the lives of several Detroiters trying to survive and make sense of what is happening to their city: the owner of a blues bar, a young blogger, an auto union rep, a group of young artists, an opera impresario, and a gang of illegal “scrappers.” This unlikely chorus illuminates the tale of both a city and a country in a soul-searching mood, desperate for a new identity.

“Our film – part love letter, part cautionary tale – enters the world of Detroiters who could leave if they wanted, but have chosen to stick with a city that so desperately needs them,” says Ewing and Grady. “They represent the resilience of Americans who are facing a quickly changing world. We are thrilled to share their story with the rest of the country.”

How Detroit rebuilds itself will set an example for countless other post-industrial cities with similar fates. Today the entire country is watching to see if this storied metropolis has the courage, creativity, and grit to reinvent itself.

To learn more about the film, visit the Detropia companion website (, which features information about the film, including an interview with the filmmaker and links and resources pertaining to the film’s subject matter. The site also features a Talkback section, where viewers can share their ideas and opinions, preview clips of the film, and more.