Detroit Wild City

Florent Tillon's film begins with familiar but inevitably arresting images of Detroit's decay into postapocalyptic pastoralism, but doesn't end there. While most cinematic pilgrims have portrayed the Motor City as a giant canvas onto which they project their outsider fantasies, Tillon has greater ambitions and greater respect. The obligatory urban tour of empty factories and the abandoned Michigan Central station quickly gives way to a contemplative, nuanced discussion of what futures might actually be possible. As we visit with a variety of Detroiters, we realize that most of what we think we know about Detroit is superficial, and begin to question easy assumptions about urban agriculture, urban pioneering, and Detroit's reversion to a “natural” state. While urban farmer Shirley Robinson suggests “a lot of people would go back to a simple life if they had a choice,” outsider historian/pundit Black Monk questions the long-term effect of today's urban pioneering movement. “Urban pioneers find the edge, but don't occupy it,” he tells us. “Cities are built by settlers, not pioneers.” Tavern proprietor Larry Mongo, on the other hand, likens today's young inbound migrants to those who originally settled Detroit three hundred years ago. A minimalist but intelligent travelogue that resists sensationalism, Detroit Wild City focuses on people rather than ruins. It suggests that while macronarratives may help us understand the past, micronarratives will describe the future, and Detroit's destiny will be the product of many individual, small-group ,and localized efforts.

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