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Indie Wire

"DETROPIA" is a documentary about the economic changes in Detroit.

What's it about? Our film explores the city of Detroit, the country's fastest shrinking city. Is it an isolated case or the canary in the American coal mine?

Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady say: "We are describing this film as a cinematic tapestry in the sense that we float between multiple characters and situations in order to paint a picture of the city - and the country - today. We hope that we've captured the mood of a city, of the country and its people.

"We had never endeavored to make a film about an entire city. Usually we find a tiny story in an unknown place and eventually the greater meaning emerges. In this case we chose an epic city that we felt we could learn a great deal about this moment in American history. Because we chose the location before the characters, the development process was much longer and our shooting ratio was worse than normal. Going on a gut feeling to a place and then asking it to speak to you is terrifying and required us to go outside our filmic comfort zone in a big way. Thank God, Detroit finally spoke up and told us what to do.

"We feel the film can be a real conversation-generator about this crucial moment in time for all of us. What the hell happened to Detroit to bring it to this desperate place? How did we get here? What will it take to get out of the collective mess we are in, and not just in Detroit? What will the next 100 years of this (fading? challenged?) empire look like? We hope to get a conversation going about the changing American identity and our willingness - or resistance to - adapt? Oh yes, indeed, lots to talk about. Let's get it going!

"It takes years to make a film, countless hours on location and in a dark edit room, sharing your work with so few people. And finally to take it public, to experience it with an audience, to take both criticism and praise - this is where a film takes flight. This is what we look forward to at Sundance. Plus, we love seeing other filmmakers' work and celebrating their accomplishment with them. Also, let's be honest, a distribution deal would be sweet!"

Click HERE for Screening Information!

Erik Prouix, Filmmaker, Lemonade Detroit

What is Detroit‘s Brand?

If you’re not from there, you might only think of Detroit as the city with the massive population contraction. Or the one abandoned by the auto industry. Or the place with all the racial tension.

Or maybe when you watched the Super Bowl last year, you were introduced to a Detroit you hadn’t considered. You saw Eminem driving a Chrysler 200 through a hard-nosed, never-say-die, lunch-pail city with the Joe Louis fist suspended proudly by the riverfront (ironically located just outside of General Motors’ headquarters).

Whatever your impression of Detroit, I can tell you that if you’ve never spent any time there, it’s wrong. You may think you know about the city’s grit, but unless you meet gritty Detroiters, you don’t. You may think you understand the concept of reinventing blight into opportunity, but until you walk through the Russell Industrial Center or the Heidleberg Project, you don’t. You may think that as an enlightened white person, you understand the psychology of blacks who are just a few generations removed from slavery. But until you walk through the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, you don’t. (And even after that, you don’t.)

I’ve spent the better part of two years traveling to The Motor City to film “Lemonade: Detroit,” allowing myself to be absorbed by its zeitgeist, trying to find stories of reinvention that accurately reflect its brand . . . A brand I could have never fully – nor even partially – grasped without the first hand experience of being there.

There are anecdotes of promise everywhere you look that belie what you think you know. I coudn’t begin to list even a tiny fraction of what makes Detroit’s brand so resilient, so proud, so inspiring.

But here are a few stories that have been on my mind lately:

The Green Garage, which what was once an abandoned Model T showroom, has been reinvented into a collaborative workspace for sustainable Detroit entrepreneurs.

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A coalition of 55 small businesses and individuals recently donated $3,500 to purchase a billboard featuring the work of Miguel “BeloZro” Yeoman, the artistic half Detroit based creative firm BeloZro Visual Energy.

The painting, titled “The Rebuild,” displays a trio of futuristic sibling laborers inspired by Ford, Chrysler & General Motors; GM triangulated around the globe working in unison. Along with the art, the billboard features the faces and logos of project funders along with the phrase “Imagine, Detroit working together?”

Due to concerns about potential lawsuits or other forms of retaliation from the Big 3, Lamar Billboard Company required that the logos of Ford Chrysler and General Motors be completely covered before displaying the painting.

The billboard was erected Friday January 13th, and will remain for four weeks. It overlooks I-94 at Second Avenue, and is visible to eastbound travelers on I-94 well as Lodge travelers.

This billboard is the first project by Imagine Detroit Together, is an initiative that was launched this summer by James Feagin and Jerry Paffendorf to find ways to share inspiring ideas and bring Detroiters together.

James is the head of Marketing & Strategic Management for BeloZro Visual Energy, a creative firm based on the Yeoman’s artwork. Jerry Paffendorf’s other projects include Loveland,,, and raising $67,000 to build a statue of Robocop.

The project raised $3,500 to purchase the billboard through The San Francisco based focuses on ‘amplifying ideas that matter” by securing major media outlets such as billboards, television commercials, and bus signs at a discount to broadcast the messages of successful projects.

For more information on the project, visit

Top Tenz


As a country, the United States is probably better characterized by suburbia than by urbanity, by sprawling office parks rather than by dense commercial districts. Nevertheless, the concept of a “downtown”, or a centralized and distinct commercial district, first came into use in America, as cities developed along lines that created stark divisions between the 19th century urban core and the newer, less dense, residential neighborhoods of the 20th century.

The United States boasts countless defined city centers; some of which are small and derelict, while others are among the most impressive in the world. To further examine those commercial cores that tend towards the latter, here is a list of the top ten American downtowns. This list is based on size, vibrancy, architecture, businesses, and general aesthetics. While many smaller cities may boast impressive downtowns, this ranking focuses only on major metropolitan areas.

#9 Detroit

It’s no secret that the city of Detroit has fallen on tough times. Its downtown core has fared much better than the surrounding neighborhoods, but still has its share of vacant buildings and a frequent dearth of foot traffic. Nonetheless, Detroit’s downtown is one of the most architecturally impressive in the country, largely because the city began to decline before others began urban renewal efforts. These efforts would ultimately scar the cores of those cities. Detroit’s downtown, then, is a remarkable architectural testament to pre-World War II styles of construction. It also remains a center of employment in the greater metro areas, and it has revitalized in recent years with the addition of restaurants and sports facilities. And you can’t forget the legendary automobile manufacturing meccas of Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, the original symbols of 20th century American innovation.

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