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Why Film "Detroit" Shouldn't Be Totally Cancelled Out

Algee smith_john boyega_malcolm d kelley_jacob latimore_jason mitchell_leon thomas

"Detroit"opened in theaters nationwide August 4th. After being released in select cities the weekend prior, Detroit came in #8 at the box office following its domestic debut. Detroit's debut competitors were Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba's "The Dark Tower" and Halle Berry's "Kidnap." "The Dark Tower" hailed at #1 at the weekend's box office, but stood as the top lowest grossing opener since April. Although Detroit did not secure its debut's top 5, and its film makers received an abundance of criticism, Detroit is still worth the watch. 

Detroit is based on true events placed during the 1967 riots in Detroit, Michigan. The riots sparked as systematic injustice and police brutality against blacks reached its boiling point. Lasting five days, the Detroit riots resulted in the deaths of over four dozen people. The film opens with brief American history, stemming from the south making its way to the north. Detroit then enacts the raid at an after hours- unlicensed bar, which initiated the riots. 

The film's core digs into the unlikely meeting of seven young black men at the Algiers Motel in the midst of the riots, who experienced a horrific night of physical and psychological abuse. Along with those men, two young white women were also taunted by white officers as one helpless black security guard bared witness to the events. 

That night, Larry Reed (portrayed by Algee Smith),  Fred Temple (Jacob Latimore), Carl Cooper (Jason Mitchell), Greene (Anthony Mackie), Aubrey (Nathan Davis Jr), Lee (Peyton Alex Smith), Michael Clark (Malcolm David Kelley) and John Boyega (Melvin Dismukes) all had one mission...surviving the night. 

Algee smith_john boyega_malcolm d kelley_jacob latimore_jason mitchell_leon thomas
Algee smith_john boyega_malcolm d kelley_jacob latimore_jason mitchell_leon thomas
Algee smith_john boyega_malcolm d kelley_jacob latimore_jason mitchell_leon thomas
Algee smith_john boyega_malcolm d kelley_jacob latimore_jason mitchell_leon thomas

As a diverse audience at the Director's Guild of America in Los Angeles, California screened the film before its nationwide release along with the cast and crew, an utter was not to be heard or a move to be made as everyone's eyes witnessed the reality of...America. Detroit did a great job of mirroring reality for everyone. With California being a liberal state, its easy to overlook and sweep racism under the rug. It is something that surely still exist and trails a very violent history in Los Angeles. No matter if you're white, black, or of another race, Detroit's stabbing visuals hit home and evokes emotions of anger, pain, betrayal, sadness, rage and hopefully empathy.  

At the center of Detroit's criticism are two things: the over exposure of violence and film makers motives in creating a piece on a black historical event with no black creators involved. The realism in Detroit's scenes are sickening and frightening. The packed group sharing the screening experience at the Director's Guild of America either did not move by revelation or squirmed in trauma. There is no other way of portraying the acts of racism and systematic injustice that makes your feel good! 

It's 2017 where the KKK, white nationalist groups and Nazi's march together to protest the removal of a confederate statue in Virginia, disturbing peace, chanting "its time to take our country back" and enacting terrorism is still justified. Their white privilege is protected by those at the heads of law enforcement, fortune 500 companies and the American government. 

Detroit is extremely timely and centered in mirroring that we all still exist the same in 2017 as we did in 1967, no matter what side you're on. Blacks are still wrongfully discriminated and killed by police officers and systematic racism allows blacks to remain the lowest paid, uneducated and highest consumers in the country. It's true that blacks don't deserve to continuously be forced feed violent images of being beat and dead bodies, especially since it is a very prevalent in what we see in everyday media. Detroit doesn't appease those visuals. Art is an intimation of life and there is a space in entertainment to enlighten, educate, expose and even heal if done properly. The film wasn't given a particular main character (even though Larry Reed's story pioneered the narrative), to display the importance of each black life. 

Creator/director Kathryn Bigelow and her team executed no white heroes in Detroit. Not every white character in Detroit was violent or shouted racial slurs. There were white characters who chastised their counterparts for being racist and one that felt conviction after taking an innocent life. What Detroit did show is even the 'good' whites weren't as good as they thought they were. As mass incarceration took place during the riots, beatings, and those 7 men being terrorized at the Algiers Motel, ending in three of those men's murder, many of the white characters turned the other cheek. 

Peyton Alex Smith_Algee smith_john boyega_malcolm d kelley_jacob latimore_jason mitchell_leon thomas
Algee smith_john boyega_malcolm d kelley_jacob latimore_jason mitchell_leon thomas

There is no argument that Detroit should have absolutely been more inclusive with black creators. There is no excuse why anyone African American could have been in the creative process of the movie, but Detroit shouldn't be totally casts out because of it. Let's be honest, Detroit is not the first project that tells a black story with the absence of black creation and it won't be the last. Although all white people benefit from white privilege, it is human of us to possess empathy. Kathryn Bigelow saw an opportunity to create a narrative of a story that had not been publicized in 50 years. The cinematography of Detroit was excellent. Wardrobe, set, strong writing and acting by the entire ensemble was amazing. 

Kathryn Bigelow may not be a well known household name to the masses, which may limit the openness to stories like Detroit. This year, film's with such as "Moonlight," "Fences," "Hidden Figures" and "Girl's Trip" received success and high praise for their high celebrity cast and black creative curation. Not only did Detroit lack diversity behind the scenes, its cast is comprised of very talented breakout stars. 

"Moonlight," created by two black men and a breakout cast was released independently last year. It wasn't until the film's notoriety picked up during festival and award season, (heavily endorsed by industry white people) that it expanded to a broader audience. The remarkable untold story of "Hidden Figures" was directed by a non-person of color Theodore Melfi. The film starred a dynamic cast of black women and utilized music superstar Pharrell Williams's co-producing for push, which did extremely well in box offices. 

As a bigger picture for those who acknowledged Detriot's lack of diversity as a way not to support the film, it boarders limitations to the progression of blacks in Hollywood. With much of the backlash coming a black audience, there are a few things to consider for the ultimate benefit of protecting black art and business.

+ If many only knew and were outraged by the real percentage of film, television, corporate Hollywood, marketing and distribution spearheaded by white people for a predominately black audience, then there would be nothing for us to support. 

+ With already a handful of projects by black creators or a dominant black cast being pushed through, any nonsupport speaks volumes to distributors and major production companies. This limits not only majors platforms, opportunities for hire, but funding. Negative critics of black projects by black voices is heard very quickly to classic Hollywood. 

Black actors and production workers need work too. How many phenomenally talented people on and off camera are there waiting for an opportunity to make their come dreams in Hollywood? What is the ratio of diversity in Hollywood of on-screen actors and the ratio of those hired as crew? A film like Detroit should be criticized for who did and didn't make it, but it's black actors did an incredible job and should be rewarded.

+ "For us by us." If blacks don't support blacks, it discourages black creators from creating. There's more than Oprah, Will Packer, Kevin Hart, Lee Daniels and Tyler Perry who are more than capable of million dollar projects. Lack of support and outrage about everything honestly broadens the divide and promotes our oppression within our community. We'd rather watch others succeed. 

 + Black audiences have to be open to films that don't just make them laugh. Comedies created and not created by blacks are pushed because they do extremely well to black audiences. "Girl's Trip" is a great film that has crossed the $100 million mark. "Get Out," an amazing thriller (also a satire) created by comedian Jordan Peele is the highest grossing film of 2017. Tyler Perry is often criticized for his film's that portray uncomfortable issues that happen within the black community and emphasis on religion. He found a unique way to angle his subject matter to make less serious with the development of Medea. There should be a space for faith-based films such as "War Room" or "Miracles From Heaven" to thrive.

Nate Parker's "The Birth of a Nation" was among the release of black films in 2016 that received great reviews. Nate Parker's personal past came back to haunt him as press began for the film. "The Birth of a Nation" was unsuccessful at the box office due to the creator's personal matter (which his allegations should not be endorsed), but to Hollywood, that message didn't matter. How many entertainers and athletes do we support who've been accused of acts of rape, racism, abuse, and sexism? "Birth of a Nation" was created, written, directed, produced and funded by a black man. The movie's important story was dismissed, overlooked and Nate Parker was "cancelled." 

Films like "Detroit," "12 Years a Slave," "Hidden Figures," "Moonlight," "The Color Purple" "Precious" and even "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" present viewers with pain which is hard to deal with even as entertainment. Shows such as "Empire," "Underground," "Being Mary Jane" and "Insecure" also open the creative spectrum of black narratives that present us with harsh realities and pain of the black experience. As blacks should be creating and given a fair opportunity to act, write, produce, work, market and direct art, we can't cancel everything especially if the story is good. 

(Photos: Farrin Hymon, FARRINHEIT 411)

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