Director of harrowing ‘Detroit’ hopes film starts dialogue on race
Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow brought her powerful interpretation of Detroit’s racially charged 1967 riots home to the city in the world premiere of Detroit, saying she hoped the film would encourage a wider dialogue nationwide.
Detroit recreates the civil unrest by African-Americans in the city 50 years ago, and the little-known police interrogation and shootings of three black men at the Algiers Motel.
The movie, out in major US cities on Friday, has a rare 100 percent-positive review score on aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes with many movie critics calling it timely but painful to watch.
Bigelow, in Detroit for Tuesday’s premiere, noted that although the events took place a half century ago, unarmed black men were still being shot by police in the US.
“These events keep happening. I mean look at how timely and topically it is with Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Laquan McDonald, Freddie Gray,” Bigelow said.
Brown, Martin, McDonald and Gray were killed in separate incidents between 2012 and 2015. Martin was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer.
“I think [the film is] an opportunity to encourage or invite a dialogue about bridging a divide this country desperately needs, in my humble opinion,” Bigelow added.
Bigelow, 65, was the first woman to win an Oscar for directing with her 2008 Iraq war movie The Hurt Locker. Bigelow also directed Zero Dark Thirty, the 2012 thriller about the US military mission to hunt down al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
In Detroit, actor Will Poulter plays a white, racist police officer who was subsequently tried and acquitted of all charges in the shootings.
“I think like a lot of other white people, sometimes the topic of race is often uncomfortable or difficult. I’m hoping that a film like this will encourage people to talk about this topic when we’re invited into the conversation,” Poulter said.
Adam Graham, film critic for the Detroit News, wrote that the movie is “an intense, gritty, explosive recreation of a grim moment in one of our city’s worst chapters.”
“It hurts, because it needs to. This is not a film about civic pride or the city’s comeback. We have to own this, and Bigelow highlights this ugly moment on its 50th anniversary. Yes, the city has moved on, but this incident still stings, and Detroit reopens wounds that fester,” Graham wrote.