By Mike Fossano
As many of you probably have heard by now, the Johnny Knoxville-hosted “Detroit Lives” three-part documentary from Palladium Boots recently went viral to what seems like generally warm reviews. In the film, Knoxville meets up with several young Detroit luminaries, including Slow’s BBQ owner Phil Cooley, musicians Ko Melina and Zack Weedon, and rapper Black Milk for a whirlwind tour that highlights the people and places that have helped to shape Detroit’s history.
Overall it’s a pretty interesting and at times entertaining film. Knoxville deserves a fair amount of dap for choosing to take the time to actually immerse himself in the city, rather than phoning in narrative voiceovers. While the subjects in the film offer great insight, ultimately nearly every mission ends with a visit to a different urban ruin. It would have been nice to get the perspective of Cooley and other entrepreneurial contemporaries, rather than the same suburban hipster clones that frequently appear as subjects.
The documentary can be watched in three parts:
Read more about Palladium Boots at: http://www.palladiumboots.com/blog/
The documentary was a little bit infuriating at times because it took on a pretty optimistic tone as it was a story told through the eyes of “suburban hipster clones” and other artists, most of whom were white. The only black guy featured in the thing was Chris Turner, and he’s an artist who lives around the corner from me and kicks it at the Bronx on the nightly. Not a true representation of the city overall. Try talking to the 700,000 struggling individuals outside of glamorous midtown. They would have a much different story to tell. The images of the rows and rows of abandoned homes on their block would be much more bleak than that of all of the famed art deco buildings toured in Detroit Lives. The film’s only saving grace is that it sparks some intrigue within foreign audiences– all my hipster college friends are down to come visit now.
So, I guess what I’m saying is that Detroit does NOT live, but I will concede that the documentary does fulfill its title and purpose well.
To be fair, Larry Mongo from Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy was also featured. Ironically, one of his main subjects was the influx of white people into the city. I agree with you, I love everything that’s being borne in Midtown right now- arts, music, entertainment at the grassroots level- but I’m looking for deeper insight than from that of some suburban migrant who’s claim to fame is that he’s 24 and owns an abandoned building in which he throws killer parties. Yes this “Detroit Lives” will spark foreign interest, but we need people who aren’t just going to “hop in and hop out” so-to-speak (shout to the Wu)–we need investment in the city.