So, Detroit flopped at the box office. Rightfully so. Oscars? Won’t happen. I’m not particularly mad at Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal for retelling the story. They’re filmmakers. They have every right to tell the story they want to tell. Their intentions were good. Fifty years after the horrifying incident at the Algiers Motel, they wanted to tell the so-called untold story of what really happened that horrible fateful night. Technically and artistically, they did a great job. Acting on point. Shots on point. Audience gripped. All the makings of a great film.
Good intentions. Horrible timing.
In a world where the “alt-right,” Charlottesville, VA, Black Lives Matter, and the forty-fifth president have the country divided, this was NOT the right time to release this film. At all. Furthermore, extra care should have been taken to insure that the audiences who share the same color as the young men who suffered that night would be able to receive the film with open arms. Case in point: at my screening, a fellow Black man yelled at the screen in anger and promptly marched his family out of the theater.Should he have given the film a chance?
My honest answer: Nope. Why should he? He could walk out of that theatre and with one traffic stop find himself in the same boat as the young men in the movie.
And so could I. Or my eleven-year-old son.
If I were Bigelow/Boal/a high ranking executive at Annapurna Pictures, I probably would have focus grouped this release with as many African-American audiences as I could. I would have studied their reactions. I would take the bristling of every curse word and anguished plea of “Why did y’all make this movie and why are y’all releasing it NOW?” And the filmmakers would rightfully respond about their call as filmmakers to tell the uncomfortable stories; the ones that make us shift in our seats in horror. And they’d talk about how a survivor of the incident was one of the technical advisors, and about their careful, accurate research, and on and on.
Again…good intentions. Bad timing.
To myself and other African-American audiences, this is not history. It happened in the past. And it’s still happening in the present. And if God doesn’t change the hearts of many from the President of the United States right on down the line, we are terrified that these events will happen in the future.
New day. Same stories. Same outcomes. The Detroit cops beat their cases in 1967. Cops are still beating cases – despite video evidence that their victims are unarmed and/or posed no life or death-laden threat to them.
It simply wasn’t the right time to release this movie. Let alone, a WIDE RELEASE – presumably done to get a jump on Awards Season like African American centric contenders The Help and Lee Daniels’ The Butler did with late summer release plans that floated through the bulk of the season. I respect the intentions of the filmmakers. But the wounds have not healed. The pain is too raw. The scars are infected in all of us. Only God can heal us now…not this movie.