Thursday, July 6, 2017

Detroit doc plays like drama

Recently, in San Francisco, and accidentally stumbling upon the San Francisco documentary film festival (SFDocfest) (June 7 post), I had time to squeeze in only one film. And what better one to choose than a film about Detroit? It’s Andrew James’s (Cleanflix, 2009) Street Fighting Men……The film follows three inner city Detroit men who are trying to combat crime and joblessness in their neighborhoods. While a documentary, it comes across as a fictionized drama, the characters searingly captured in such a natural way, obliviously to the camera. Also, remarkably, James, so seemingly comfortable filming in Detroit (he lived here a year), was a complete newcomer to the city, his home in Utah. James decided to explore Detroit quite by accident. He was en route to the Toronto International Film Festival. As many around the world have, James had been captivated by Detroit’s modern day de-industrialization and widespread destitution. He read an article in Metro Times about one of the characters, James "Jack Rabbit" Jackson, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer. James contacted Jackson, who “was eager to tell his story and we hit it off right away.” In the film, James follows Jackson and two other men - Deris Solomon and Luke Williams – in their day to day lives. Deris is studying to finish high school, and Luke is rehabilitating an abandoned house. Says James, in a response to my query, “I felt that a longitudinal, fly on the wall style would allow me time to get to know the community better and find the story in collaboration with the subjects. This extended time in the field allowed me to form close bonds with the three men, and it gave me a unique opportunity to tell their stories in a very personal and emotional way.” ……The film has still not screened in Detroit but James is hoping to arrange a showing as soon as possible. 

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