A recent online spoof to raise half a billion dollars to save Detroit went viral. Now the filmmaker behind it, has another message he'd like to share.
Oren Goldenberg's latest video is a quick-cut stream of logos for Say Nice Things About Detroit, Made in Detroit, Imported from Detroit, Seed Detroit, Popup Detroit and dozens more. As a robotic voice reads each one out loud over the course of three minutes, the point hits home. Invoking the city's name for marketing purposes can work for nearly anything and yet mean almost nothing.
"I'm fascinated by this idea: Who is Detroit? What do you mean when you say it?" said Goldenberg. "We don't have any consensus on what Detroit is, so how can anyone come up with a plan to revitalize, regenerate, save, (do) anything (to) Detroit?"
The 29-year-old Detroit filmmaker is best known for his serious, unblinking documentaries about the city. But at the moment, he's switching gears to comedy, the language of political and socially relevant discourse for a generation that finds truth in The Daily Show and instant analysis on Twitter.
And if people are forced to think about what his videos are trying to say and whether they're real, well, mission accomplished.
A couple of weeks ago, Goldenberg posted a clip of a perky young woman pitching a Kickstarter campaign to raise $500 million to save Detroit. She explained how a $1 donation would get you a ride on the People Mover, $500 an abandoned home, $20 million the city's entire water department and so on.
So far, the video has drawn nearly 23,000 views on YouTube, as well as comments like, "This is a joke, right?"
Goldenberg's Kickstarter campaign is for real. He's trying to raise $15,000 for a six-part online comedy series, Detroit (Blank) City, to be directed by him and co-written by Ari Rubin, a childhood friend who is now a New York voice actor.
The project is described on the popular crowd-sourcing site as absurdist comedy. "Through humor, we will laugh to breathe another day," the text explains. In person, Goldenberg describes laughter as a catharsis for what's happening here -- both the problems of the city and the sometimes surreal ideas floated as possible remedies.
A University of Michigan graduate who studied film and video, Goldenberg has worked on everything from indie drama (he was the editor of Bilal's Stand, which screened at Sundance in 2010) to music videos.
"He's an excellent storyteller. He takes his work very seriously. He takes Detroit very seriously. He's committed to it," said acclaimed local filmmaker and educator Harvey Ovshinsky, who applauds Goldenberg's attempt to stretch his creative muscles with comedy.
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CLICK HERE TO CONTRIBUTE TO OREN GOLDENBERG'S KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN!