Detropia a jaw-dropping look at an alternative urban future

Detropia, the outstanding documentary showing this weekend at Pacific Cinematheque and a contender for an Oscar, is a jaw-dropping look at alternative urban future, where so many homes have been foreclosed and demolished that old neighbourhoods are returning to prairie.

The economic turmoil that cut the heart out of Detroit is “coming to you,” warns a sage bar owner who serves as one of the most insightful personalities in the film, which steps back to let the people in Detroit speak for themselves.

Where automobile plants once stretched to the horizon and the UAW was a force to be reckoned with is now a scattered remnant of a quickly-disappearing past. Where else can emerging artists find a home and a studio for $700 a month in a heritage neighbourhood?

There are green shoots emerging from the cracks in Detroit’s abandoned buildings. The Detroit Opera remains a cultural force, but the most hopeful sign for a city that has dwindled to about 750,000 residents — about the size of Vancouver — are the artists, prowling abandoned luxury hotels and railway stations, trying to make sense of it all.

Try to see it.