You can’t talk about Detroit documentaries without considering films that target a niche subject.
Movies about Detroit’s music legacy have been prominent recently. “Searching for Sugar Man,” a Swedish documentary about the Mexican-American Detroit singer-songwriter known as Rodriguez, earned two prizes at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. It’s expected to reach theaters sometime this summer.
Another well-received film, “Louder than Love,” had its local debut in April at the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The history of the Grande Ballroom, one of Detroit’s great rock halls, was made by Detroit native Tony D’Annunzio. It’s set to screen at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on May 16.
There’s also the “Re:Generation Music Project,” now available at www.Hulu.com. Its story of five DJs rebooting five traditional styles of music includes footage of a collaboration between the Crystal Method and Motown legend Martha Reeves.
On the blues front, a new documentary, “Detroit Blues Beyond,” which explores the connection between blues, jazz, gospel and rock from a Detroit perspective, is expected to be available on DVD in about a month. It was made for airing on public television and is a project of American Music Research Foundation, a metro Detroit-based nonprofit.
The urban farming movement has also caught the attention of filmmakers. “Grown in Detroit,” a 2009 film, tells the story of a farming program at the Catherine Ferguson Academy, a Detroit school for pregnant students and teen parents. It was made by two filmmakers from the Netherlands and screened at the DFT in February. Go to www.GrowninDetroitmovie.com to see it on demand or buy a copy.
On Thursday, the Detroit Film Theatre showed “Urban Roots,” a look at how urban farming is becoming a part of life in the city and could help shape the post-industrial future. In a statement for the DFT showing, director Mark MacInnis writes about growing up in Detroit and finding his mother’s fortitude echoed by “the city that lost its engine but never lost its drive.” It can be purchased at www.UrbanRootsAmerica.com.
Innovation was a big theme of a three-part documentary , “Detroit in Overdrive,” that aired in 2011 on Planet Green and was presented by the cable channel and General Motors. It profiled people working to rebuild the city and looked at everything from avant-garde art projects to after-school robotics programs. Several clips from the program are still available on the www.Discovery.com Web site.
Detroit’s gay community and its contributions to the city are the subject of “Motor City Pride,” a short film that spreads a message of welcome and acceptance. The arts scene is on vibrant display in “People Mover,” another short that’s an exuberant collage of rockers, classical musicians, blues singers, poets, performance artists, rappers and chefs who turn the People Mover’s cars into a performance stage for a day. Both 4exit4 Productions are posted on http://Vimeo.com.