How did you find the film?
Well unfortunately, I missed the very beginning which likely shows how the Detroit riots kicked off. Basically the police busted an illegal bar that led to protests, rioting and looting. The interesting thing is the director intersperses real 1967 footage of the riots with the plot of the film. It gives it a real edginess to the film, which solidified the plot of the story. The interesting part is the looting devolved into black and whites looting businesses. The police try to enact curfews and lock down the rioting. A young over-zealous police officer starts shooting looters, which leads to the crux of the story.
Some say the story is too personal on one event vs. the rioting. Do you agree?
Well in order to tell the story of the whole event in a movie, there has to be a tieing together story. The same as she explains 9/11 and aftermath via the hunt for Osama bin Laden in her other film, she boils it down to a sub-story within the mass event. The human mind really can't comprehend a mass numbers story, so a simple story within the riots really help capture how the mass event rippled through a generation. In the whole event 43 died, 2000 buildings were destroyed, 7200 arrests were made, and 40-45 million dollars of damage was done. It would be impossible to tell such a wide event.
Do you think she portrays police fairly?
Another great angle is the tension between the National Guard, Detroit Police and Michigan State police. The Detroit police are much more racist having urban arrests as their primary activity, while the other forces tend to be less racially motivated, yet hesitant to cross jurisdiction battles, so end up letting the police brutalize these young men.
I really like this character as he is put between the youngsters hanging out at the hotel and protecting the local grocer as a guard. He is trying to do the right thing by pacifying the police and guards in his neighborhood, so that tempers cool down and rational decisions are made. Then he gets pulled into the sniper scene at the hotel. He is trying to walk the fine line in 1967 Detroit.
This is really the crux of the story in that he is an aspiring Motown singer of a group called the Dramatics. This one event ends up derailing his career permanently by scarring him so he never wants to be in a mixed crowd, where police might be. Basically, he is scared and never returns to his former dreaming state.
Do you think this is actually what happened?
Well, at the end they let you know this is what happened. Some people would say it is a cop out, but dramatic events like this can really scar a person in such a manner. Many things that happen in life can permanently alter you view of the reality you live in.
One example, is my brother and I both wanted to see this at the opening with my dad. He had lived in the 1960s and been at University of Wisconsin, where a student group took over a building a blew up a classroom in 1970 and set off a bomb. The bombers had just wanted to scare authorities or some BS. They ended up killing a researcher and injuring 3 others. While nothing in comparison, my dad living through that chaos caused him to not want to see this film at all. Some a minor bit of trama can really make a huge difference in a person's life.
Do you think Larry would have recovered if the case had been found against the police?
I doubt it. He was permanently scarred and a simple case would not likely have made a difference. He would have felt a bit of justice, but terrorism leaves permanent scars.
Did you ever have life altering events in your life?
A few. When my acquaintance/ex friend was arrested on rape and murder of a child, I lost something deep in trusting people. To this day I really distrust the world. I don't even trust close family sometimes. Also, having a borderline parent really leaves deep scars you don't recover from. Borderline people can't accept feedback nor even understand your view so constantly make up conspiracy theories of why people mistreat them. Its very painful to deal with as they blame everyone you know and stir shit. You just have to permanently cut them off.
Another event was the Berlin Wall falling. At the time I lived in Poland and was likely less than 1% of a minority. Given I didn't have obvious skin differences, but you were always on watch. When the Berlin Wall fell, there was intense rioting, protest in the street and luckily the police just let the revolution happen and not shoot anyone. In all other revolutions, the ex-USSR would send tanks to the street and massacre civilians. So living through that you have an intense aversion to protest. I try to overcome that in my art, but am always aware of my environment.
A third event that happened was the entire collapse of the German construction industry and bust of a major construction company when I was considering to do my Masters in Architecture. This event caused me to doubt it would be logical or safe to study and I never did. I regret this choice as I would have rather found out via study and work than never knowing. If you ever have kids, never stop them from their passions as they will live sub-standard lives.
Have you done any art related to race relations?
In this painting, I took on the topic of Trayvon Martin case and his shooting due to the Stand Your Ground law in Florida. I felt really connected after having kind of lived through the LA riots (watching on TV) and how the police harassed me for some BS confession letter of my ex-friend that was later convicted of rape and murder. In this work, I have Florida juxtaposed with the rifle, the McGruff crime dog, Neighborhood watch and other symbols of the crime. The circles represent Skittles that Trayvon was carrying in his pocket at the time. The 5 rows and 10 columns represent the bail set for Zimmerman, who later got off not-guilty despite having actively stalked Trayvon.