Currently: Requiem for Detroit?, a documentary about Detroit by filmmaker Julien Temple (The Filth and the Fury, Glastonbury, Oil City Confidential).
At its peak in 1950, the city was the fourth-largest in the USA, but its new statistics are staggering: 40sq miles of the 139sq mile inner city have already been reclaimed by nature. One in five houses now stand empty. Property prices have fallen 80% or more over the last three years and a three-bedroom house on Albany Street is still on the market for $1.
Julien Temple on the experience of making the film:
The seeds of the Motor City’s downfall were sown a long time ago. The blind belief of the Big Three in the automobile as an inexhaustible golden goose, guaranteeing endless streams of cash, resulted in the city becoming reliant on a single industry. Its destiny fatally entwined with that of the car. The greed-fuelled willingness of the auto barons to siphon up black workers from the American south to man their Metropolis-like assembly lines and then treat them as subhuman citizens, running the city along virtually apartheid lines, created a racial tinderbox. The black riots of 1943 and 1967 gave Detroit the dubious distinction of being the only American city to twice call in the might of the US army to suppress insurrection on its own streets and led directly to the disastrous so-called white flight of the 50s, 60s and 70s.
On the plus side:
With the breakdown of 20th-century civilization, many Detroiters have discovered an exhilarating sense of starting over, building together a new cross-racial community sense of doing things, discarding the bankrupt rules of the past and taking direct control of their own lives. Still at the forefront of the American Dream, Detroit is fast becoming the first “post-American” city. And amid the ruins of the Motor City it is possible to find a first pioneer’s map to the post-industrial future that awaits us all. So perhaps Detroit can avoid the fate of the lost cities of the Maya and rise again like the phoenix that sits, appropriately, on its municipal crest. That is why George and I decided to call our film Requiem for Detroit? – with a big question mark at the end.