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Rachel Grady (#110 of 4)

15 Famous Detroit Movies

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15 Famous Detroit Movies
15 Famous Detroit Movies

This weekend’s hot doc is Detropia, the latest from Jesus Camp directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. A painterly ode to a recession-ravaged empire, the movie explores the rock-bottom state of Detroit, and questions whether or not it has the stuff to rebuild itself. A unique metropolis, Motor City is one offbeat cinematic setting, far from the glamor of New York and the commonness of Toronto, Hollywood’s go-to stand-in town. Only a handful of films have been set in Detroit (and even fewer have actually been filmed there), but we scrounged up an eclectic selection, boasting the likes of Clint Eastwood, Carl Weathers, Warren Beatty, and Eminem.

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2012 Samsara, Reportero, Detropia, & More

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Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2012: Diaries: 1971-1976, Samsara, Reportero, Detropia, & More
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2012: Diaries: 1971-1976, Samsara, Reportero, Detropia, & More

Ed Pincus was one of the founders of the MIT Film Section, a training ground for future documentary filmmakers like Ross McElwee. Pincus produced a body of work that straddles the line between the purported objectivity of Direct Cinema, a movement he helped pioneer with early works like the Black Natchez, and the more self-reflecting style known as personal documentary. As its name suggests, Diaries: 1971-1976 belongs in the latter category, an intimate epic that examines the inextricable Gordian knot of personal and political commitment by turning the camera eye on friends and family. Bookended by intimations of mortality, the deaths of a relative and close friend, Diaries spends most of its three-hour-plus run time charting the shifting sexual climate of the 1970s, delving into experiments in lifestyle choices ranging from nudism to open marriage. Frequent exchanges between Pincus and wife Jane, a member of the feminist collective responsible for the manifesto Our Bodies, Ourselves, consider the consequences of their decisions not only on their own relationship, but also on their two young children. Diaries also records, albeit in a distanced, Brechtian fashion, the last gasps of anti-war protest and the disintegration of the counterculture, at least the Cambridge variety. For a stretch late in the film, Diaries achieves a gritty kind of New Hollywood vibe as Pincus and a fellow filmmaker range around the desert Southwest, the documentary equivalent of Easy Rider. As a time capsule, Diaries is invaluable, but Pincus’s decision to work against narrative cohesion by cutting away from conversations at key moments, and otherwise hashing up individual segments, renders the film chaotic and disjointed, sapping it of the cumulative impact found in documentaries like Allan King’s A Married Couple, let alone the massive slab of social experimentation then going on over at PBS called An American Family.

A Movie a Day, Day 25: 12th & Delaware

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A Movie a Day, Day 25: 12th & Delaware
A Movie a Day, Day 25: 12th & Delaware

Today’s movie is a knockout of a documentary, 12th & Delaware, a real-life horror story about a domestic terrorism movement that may have already won. It’s part of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, which begins today here in New York City. You can read my thoughts on Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s film by clicking here.

Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2010: 12th & Delaware

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Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2010: 12th & Delaware
Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2010: 12th & Delaware

12th & Delaware takes place almost entirely within—or just outside—two innocuous-looking one-story buildings on the sunny Florida street corner of the title. One is an abortion clinic and the other is a “pregnancy center” run by Christian foes of abortion, put there to confuse and divert the women who come to the clinic for abortions. Cutting back and forth between the two, this knockout documentary anatomizes anti-abortion zealots’ relentless fight to end abortion by any means necessary.

It starts inside what turns out to be the anti-abortion storefront, though it takes a while to figure that out, putting us in the same position as the mostly young women who wind up there. We stay long enough to get a clear picture of what goes on there, following Ann, the thin-lipped director, as she “counsels” a few women, talks to her staff, and discusses her work. Ann’s main tools are the free ultrasounds she gives every woman who comes in and the miniature plastic baby dolls she shows them, claiming that they look like their fetuses. She also leaves them alone in the waiting room long enough so they can read the literature there, which is full of frightening misinformation about abortions.