You've heard of city symphonies? This is more like a requiem. Documentary makers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp) consider the economic implosion of Detroit, America's greatest manufacturing city, and by extension the death of American manufacturing itself. Most of the people profiled are working-class black folks hanging on for dear life as wages plummet and jobs drain away to China and Mexico, though the filmmakers are frank enough to note that the city's only growth demographic is young, white hipsters moving in to scoop up the bargain-basement real estate. The movie is heavy on statistics (all of them grim), yet what lingers is an operatic sense of tragedy—not least because one story line dwells on the insolvency of the Detroit Opera House. At the end of the movie a tenor wanders through the abandoned and decaying Michigan Central Station, his fine voice reverberating off the high ceilings; it's a moment of great beauty and, quite literally, great emptiness.
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