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Oh Opia No! Why 25 Detroiters Hated The Film Detropia

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It may be the film about Detroit that THEY don't want you to see. But only if you live in Detroit: for everyone else, it's view-a-palooza! Despite multiple inquiries (thanks, intern Daniel) from Curbed Detroit for a DVD copy or invite to a media screening for the much-hyped documentary film Detropia, Curbed Detroit staff still have not seen it. A blog about Detroit can't see the film about Detroit? But there is a screening in Tel Aviv, Israel this week? The filmmakers are parading the thing around DOCAVIV: The Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival from May 3 to 12, according to the Loki Films website. Last week Canada got a turn at a Documentary Film Festival in Toronto. For Detroit's turn to see itself as an "opia," we are reliant on a screening that will be coordinated with the Free Press, but no date has been set. What's the hold up?

Reports would indicate that the filmmakers might still be tweaking the content into a different version for Detroiters, or at least waiting for some more good reviews before this city bashes the film. What happened was, about a month ago a group of 25-30 influential locals were invited to a test-screening with the filmmakers present. They saw a shortened version of the documentary (about 30 minutes of the final 90 minute version were missing) and were then asked to give feedback.

They hated it. All of them. They got angry.

One person that attended explained that part of the film was made with money from the Ford Foundation, which had some initial goal of using the film to promote policy change in Detroit. An organization called Active Voice put together the screening for people from big organizations like the DEGC and Kresge at the Opera House to ask them how the film could support their causes. Viewers are said to have universally panned the film, asking what the point was, and why the portrait of Detroit was so one-sided? It would seem the whole thing is a very negative portrait of the city that does not make an effort to show progress (something you might imagine people from DEGC and Kresge, would want to see). Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (co-owners of Loki Films, based in New York) are said to have gotten very defensive. The audience thought that the film was about "everything wrong with Detroit," to which they responded that they had wanted to tell the "phoenix rising" story of Detroit, but that this is what resulted from their efforts.

In a previous email exchange with our intern, a Loki Films representative wrote that "We are planning to screen the film in the Detroit area as soon as March so please be patient," and denied a request for a media copy. From the department of pure speculation, we wonder if the Free Press screening will be the same version as the one shown in other cities, or if they adjust the content for Detroit audiences. We're also wondering how the Ford Foundation feels about it's investment. On the one-hand, the film is said to be beautifully shot, and hey, there is the Alec Baldwin tweet endorsement. Or the other hand, who wants to see 25 angry people turn into 700,000? In any case, the upcoming Free Press screening should be interesting.

· Dismantling Detroit [New York Times]
· Detroit Documentary Craze [Curbed Detroit]
· There Are 16 Detroit Doc Films: Alec Baldwin Has Seen One [Curbed Detroit]
· DetropiaWire; "Suburb" Becomes Verb; Real Estate Swingers [Curbed Detroit]
· Detroit On View [Curbed Detroit]