Friday, January 20, 2012

Ruin Porn Goes to the Sundance Film Festival

I don't usually do movie reviews on this blog. However, I've seen enough conversation about Detropia on Facebook and elsewhere that I feel compelled to opine, especially since the Warrendale neighborhood has been hit by the scrappers that are the subject of this movie.

For those who aren't familiar with Detropia, it's a new documentary by Academy Award nominated filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. Ostensibly, it looks at the "scrappers" who make a living by illegally tearing down vacant buildings in Detroit; selling the scrap metal that they find. A preview of it is available here.

Quite frankly, from the preview that was shown, it's clear that this movie could have been done entirely with stock footage and no one would know the difference. It rehashes the old "lots of people have moved out of Detroit and - look - some folks are tearing down the old buildings" shtick that has been played over and over for decades in this town.

Another look at this subject wouldn't have been so bad, if only Heidi Ewing or Rachel Grady introduced something original into their movie. But they didn't.

There's a portion in the preview where some of the scrappers talk about how the police don't bother them, which is a quote that I've heard dozens of times. It would have been nice if the filmmakers asked why this is or talked to the police. That would have been something original.

But they didn't do that.

There's a portion in the preview where one of the scrappers revealed that he came from Kentucky to tear down buildings illegally in Detroit. It would have been nice if Heidi Ewing or Rachel Grady asked him why he chose to travel more than 300 miles - and go past thousands of other vacant buildings in the process - in order to tear down the ones in Detroit. That would also would have been something original.

But they didn't ask that question.

Instead, all we have is yet another film that is shockingly like the thousands of others that have been done on this subject. In the meantime, we still have Detropia - a film wastes the filmmakers time and, more importantly, it wastes the audiences's time.

There's a part of me that simply cannot believe that a boring, derivative monstrosity like this made it into the Sundance Film Festival. Unfortunately, there's an even larger part of me that find it all too easy to believe. Making boring and uninspired movies about Detroit is one of those things folks living in New York or Los Angeles simply can't stop themselves from doing.

It is, however, sad that ruin porn has made it to the Sundance Film Festival - and sadder still that this was almost inevitable. I simply hope that someone somehow manages to bring some semblance of originality and authenticity to the story.


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