Film of the Week 16 October 2020

While cinema films are the perfect way of escaping from the harsh realities of life, there are films that command our attention as social documents of the darker side of humanity. Kathryn Bigelow’s 2017, Detroit, is a searing reconstruction of a notorious incident during the race riots of 1967 in the city of Detroit.

Using actuality news footage and a dramatic scenario derived from historical accounts and the recollection of witnesses by Mark Boal, she immerses us in the chaotic maelstrom of a city enduring riots, burnings and murder following a police raid on a drinking party at a speakeasy. In a theatre the Motown soul group, The Dramatics, are performing when the police close -down the show to preserve audience safety during a riot. The group take refuge in a local motel and an innocent prank involving a starter pistol triggers a brutal attack by the Police and the National Guard who suspect a sniper.

What follows is a sustained orgy of brutality and death spearheaded by a racially motivated Police Officer who is a trigger- happy sadist. As she did in ‘The Hurt Locker’, Bigelow uses her hand- held documentary technique to draw us into an hour- long unflinching nightmare. What follows is a shameful miscarriage of justice.

With terrific performances by John Boyega as an innocent security guard, Will Poulter as the sadistic officer and Algee Smith as the traumatized lead singer this is not an easy watch but it is an important reminder of a situation that is still prevalent today. You can watch it on BBC 2 on Sunday night and thereafter on the I-Player and it is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime.

Bill Cunningham