Analysis: ‘Detroit’ Touches Raw Nerve but Tells an Important Story

It’s been 50 years since footage of tanks mounted with machine guns thundering through Detroit neighborhoods and blocks of buildings billowing with flames were broadcast into American homes.

But in Academy-Award winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s riveting new film, “Detroit,” these events feel fraught with the same tension they did back then.

More than 150 riots — or rebellions, as many historians, and to their credit even Bigelow and her cast have called them — struck American cities between 1965 and 1968.

In 1967 alone, 83 people died and 1,800 were injured — the vast majority of them African Americans living in major cities where a racially-charged encounter between Black citizens and police led to state-sanctioned violence against U.S. citizens. With a total of 43 deaths, Detroit’s five-day uprising that year one of the deadliest race riots of the 20th century.”

It was perhaps even more jarring because the polished, apolitical crooning of Motown portrayed a city not just manufacturing most of the nation’s cars, but often producing bubblegum pop that was safe for mass consumption.

When Detroit went up in flames, so did Motown’s illusory version of it.

Related: OpEd: ‘Detroit’ is Going to Hurt, But It’s Worth It

The film’s lofty goals are admirable: to show how closely tied our past is to our present, and the historically unmitigated trauma that police brutality and the injustice of the American court system inflict…

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