Detroit: A Disgraceful Disingenuous Pseudo-Documentary

Have you ever seen the movie Rashomon? It is the story of a rape or seduction, murder or honorable duel, depending on from whom you hear the story. The film is told from four different points of view: a deceased Samurai – via a medium, his wife, the bandit who either seduced or raped her, and a woodcutter who viewed the entire event from afar but has no vested interest in any of the other three parties.

Detroit could have been told in this fashion. By director Katherine Bigelow’s own end credits admission there is no conclusive evidence indicating what really happened at the Algiers Hotel the night 3 men were found dead after police stormed the hotel in search of a sniper. She could have chosen a Rashomon approach. Instead she chose to film yet another hit piece against men whose job it is to risk their lives in protection of others, including hers.

In The Hurt Locker she filmed a movie whose plot relied on so many inaccuracies of military procedure, assignments and combat protocol as to be deemed openly disrespectful by military representatives.

In Detroit Bigelow proceeds from a similar unfortunate approach. Choosing a documentary style of film making that implies confidence of accuracy where there is none is deceptive and disgraceful. In addition, Ms Bigelow falls back on vulgar and ugly stereotypes of black men who spend their time drinking and whoring during a riot playing out only blocks away, who are dumb enough to shoot a starter pistol at National Guardsmen, and are overall sniveling and cowardly. And all the authority figures, from city and state police to military, regardless of race, are either borderline psychotic sadists or collaborators to abuses.

Bigelow signals contempt of her subject matter, the people involved and her audience by beginning the movie literally with a poorly drawn cartoon history of the socio-political and historic events which led up to the Detroit riots of 1967 as though she did not believe the movie goers would understand a more sophisticated approach. Names were changed, alleged actions by different people were attributed to a single person, and events were fabricated. When things are "fabricated" in something presented to us as a documentary, there is a word for that. LIE. Ms. Bigelow LIED to put forth an agenda which can do nothing other than promote racial tensions. To me THAT is bigotry. And not a half-century old bigotry but bigotry TODAY against people of both races.

And her take on the events are full of ludicrous plotholes. One telling example: Her contention in the film is that someone shot a starter pistol out of the Algiers Hotel at Guardsmen in the middle of the night at the height of the tensions during the riot. Logic dictates that either someone shot a starter pistol, in an act of criminal stupidity, out of the Algiers Hotel window or there was a sniper at the hotel. If, in fact, it was only a foolish stunt with a blank shooting pistol, why, when lined up against a wall by police and military, did the hotel partiers not say this when asked where the weapon "of any kind" was? The man, according to Ms. Bigelow, who shot a harmless starter pistol, was lying dead on the floor in the next room having charged the incoming officers (another unbelievable move by a character in the story) so there was zero point in not telling the interrogating police this. It stretches credibility beyond breaking that no one would have told the officers, espcially after a prolonged series of interrogations, but would instead subject themselves to beatings and torture. This point alone, upon which the rest of the entire movie depends, puts all of Bigelow’s conjectures into serious doubt.

The rest of the movie continues with assumption on assumptions that can not be verified but which are put forth as Gospel truths.

Tellingly, the first one-half hour or so of the movie, which portrays events which are well documented – how the riots began, who were involved, the premature termination of a singing contest – was fairly even handedly presented. But this is only a set up to create the illusion of credibility for the rest of the story where there is none. When she places her characters in an unverifiable situation her biases become conspicuous.

Further, her creation of this questionable narrative based on a 50 year old event comes on the heels of current events where police have been targets for assassination in REAL life.


Ms. Bigelow, you should be ashamed of yourself. Everyone else should give Detroit a miss.                                    Go get Rashomon and see how a really good movie is made.

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