Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s “Detropia” is more a dream-slash-nightmare elegy than a full-fledged documentary about the most worn of Midwestern post-industrial urban casualties, but it’s a haunting elegy, not the “decay porn” that it could have been. Members of the local citizenry are enlisted to narrate a stream-of-consciousness of the multiple forces, from shrinking industry to cold politics that smashed the once great city into pieces. Plus, of course, artists drawn to the possibility of a new city built at little or no money upon the ashes of the past. And throughout, implicitly, we are seeing a vision of an America to come, whomever its leaders may be. (Goodbye, middle class, it was nice to know you.) Tony Hardmon and Craig Atkinson’s painterly photography is key to the moving sweep of the film. Ewing and Grady’s prior work includes “Jesus Camp.” HDCAM video. 91m. (Ray Pride)
“Detropia” opens Friday at Siskel. Ewing will appear 8:30pm Friday and 8pm Saturday.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.