On Tuesday night in the Motor City, I sat with more than 2,200 other people at the Fox Theatre for the premiere of “Detroit,” the movie that offers a grim glance into the 1967 Detroit riots and a little known story of horrific police brutality that occurred in the midst of the civil unrest.
Transpiring 50 years ago this week, the movie depicts what happened in real life when three young black men ended up dead at the Algiers Motel during an evening of terror inflicted by corrupt white members of Detroit’s police department.
The story is helmed by Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow, who spent months researching and preparing to shoot the movie in Detroit before begrudgingly having to relocate the production to Massachusetts for tax reasons. Regardless, Bigelow effectively captures this story of social and legal equality in cinema vérité style, cleverly interspersing real news footage and still shots into the scripted scenes.
Hollywood fresh faces Algee Smith (“The New Edition Story”), Jacob Latimore (“Collateral Beauty”), Jason Mitchell (“Straight Outta Compton”), Tyler James Williams (“Everybody Hates Chris”), Peyton Smith (“The Quad”) and others are paired with Anthony Mackie (“The Hurt Locker”), John Boyega (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) and Laz Alonso (“Avatar”) to tell this compelling and heartbreaking story to the masses.
This unflinching look at this lawless night in Detroit sadly mirrors the current climate in America a half-century later. And while the movie is clear that every police officer in Detroit during this time was not racist and corrupt, it uses this instance of unregarded hatred and violence to remind the viewers of the inexplicable uncertain Black men face then and now when their fate in left in the hands of questionable law enforcement.
“Detroit” is emotive and leaves a lasting impression. The movie is powerful, poignant and maybe the most important movie you will see this year! If you’ve ever used the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag or made the declaration that you were “woke,” it’s a sin against your social consciousness not to see this movie.
The Fox Theatre was abuzz as the entire cast of “Detroit”—minus Jason Mitchell who was called back to the set of his Showtime series “The Chi” at the last minute—brought Hollywood excitement to the home of Motown.
Local luminaries like music icon Martha Reeves, boxer Thomas Hearns and Police Chief (and LAPD veteran) James Craig were on hand, with an onslaught of national media and television shows witness Kathryn Bigelow present her latest work.
Political commentator, and Detroit native, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson opened the night with a spirited introduction to Bigelow who he said was “one of the most remarkable and riveting women of our times” who had “the courage, the gall, the unabashed temerity to tell us what’s going on.”
Taking on the typical critics who will question why a white woman had to tell this little known African American story, Dyson offered: “Why a white woman gotta do it?” then quipped that since white people were responsible for the tragedy, they “gotta clean up the mess.”
The respected professor when on to note that that Bigelow could “use and leverage her white privilege to identify with black and brown people who are demonized.”
Bigelow was genuinely overwhelmed by Dyson’s glowing introduction.
“It’s a really emotional and extremely profound outpouring of support and appreciation for this movie,” she shared, before celebrating the cast, her producing partners and bringing on stage three survivors from that horrendous night at the Algiers Motel. Larry Reed (played by Algee Smith), Julie Delaney (played by Hannah Murray) and Melvin Dismukes (played by John Boyega) joined Bigelow on stage.
At the conclusion of the film, which had even the cast members at tears reduced to tears during the screening, received thunderous applause at its conclusion.
“Detroit” opens in limited release in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, DC and Detroit on Friday, July 28. The film will debut nationwide on August 4. (Annapurna Pictures/Rated R/Running Time: 2 hours 23 minutes) || (All Photos by Eric Charbonneau & courtesy of Annapurna Pictures)