Detroit Documentaries You Should Watch

Alright, this is my first blog post so please bare with me. I really have no idea what I'm doing...but here goes nothing.

I had an accident about a month ago and since then I have had a lot of time on my hands. This has led me to watching way too much Netflix and illegally downloading way too many movies. Believe it or not I got so desperate I paid for a couple films because I really wanted to see them and could not find a torrent for the file. That's desperation. As most of you know I'm pretty into Detroit and plan to live there when I graduate. Naturally, being the nerd I am, I watched just about every Detroit documentary I could get my hands on. Here are some of the ones I have watched recently, along with some of my long-time favorites.

  • ESPN 30 for 30, The Bad Boys (2014) - By far my favorite 30 for 30, this documentary by Zak Levitt follows the story of the team that Detroit loved so much, the Bad Boys. Not only does it tell the story of my beloved Detroit Pistons, it's also narrated by Kid Rock, giving me even more of a reason to adore it. Whether you were alive to watch the Bad Boys play or not I highly recommend this documentary because most of these players are still relevant either coaching or in management of NBA teams, and it also partially covers the Detroit rebellions of 1967. You also get to see Dennis Rodman talk, and that's always a fun time. Must watch for anyone who enjoys sports.
  • It Came From Detroit (2009) - This documentary from James R. Petix studies the Garage Rock epidemic that took over Detroit in the 80s when bands like The Gories started making a very unique brand of music in their garage. The film continues to talk about icons like The White Stripes and their rise to fame, followed by the reemergence of bands like the Stooges and the MC5. I didn't know much about the topic beforehand and still found it very interesting.
  • Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002) - This highly acclaimed documentary from Paul Justman takes a closer look at The Funk Brothers, the group of musicians behind almost every hit that came out of Motown during it's Detroit days. The band backed up dozens of superstar Motown artists, but never really received the fame or money that one might think comes with the booming success Motown had. The Funk Brothers reunited in Detroit for the first time since the Motown Era and this film does a wonderful job documenting that and their history.
  • Burn (2012) - this eye opening documentary from Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez spends a year with the firefighters of Detroit, documenting their every day lives. Not only do the cameras take us into the burning buildings of Detroit, they show us how awful the equipment for these heroes truly is and what hard lives most of these men have. Probably one of my favorite documentaries I have ever seen, and I highly recommend it to anyone who spends time in Detroit or has ever held a government paid-position.
  • Detropia (2012) - this all-encompassing documentary by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady takes place in 2012 Detroit and focuses on the economic crisis that, for better words, destroyed a significant portion of Detroit. The documentary highlights the major manufacturing flight from the city that started in the 1960s and continues today. The filmmakers also talk with then Mayor Dave Bing about what to do with all the vacant land in Detroit, and even entertains ideas such as mass relocation and urban farming. If you know much about Detroit, you probably know a lot of what is covered in this documentary, but it is still very interesting to watch. 
  • American Revolutionary | The evolution of Grace Lee Boggs (2013) - One of my favorite documentaries. Not exactly about Detroit, this film by Grace Lee (a woman with the same name, watch it, you'll understand) follows the life of one of the most influential revolutionaries of our time. Now diseased, Grace Lee Boggs moved to Detroit in the 1950s and fought in almost every activism movement to emerge in the United States since. The film also talks about the program she started, Detroit Summer, a multicultural youth program in the city. If you enjoy this documentary I highly recommend her book The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-first Century. You won't want to put it down.
  • Motor City's Burning | Detroit From Motown to The Stooges (2008) - The BBC hits a home run with this documentary that covers everything from the rebellions of 1967 to the resurgence of The Stooges in the early 2000s. As a huge fan of Iggy Pop and The Stooges, I loved this documentary. They covered the early years of Detroit rock and roll, take you to now-abandoned venues (which I have also been to) The Grand and Vanity Ballrooms, and explain how Detroit's music scene evolved and eventually was capped off by Alice Cooper stealing the stage in the early 1970s. If you are a fan of music, history, or love the city of Detroit I highly recommend this documentary. It covers so much in a very short amount of time, and interviews all of the key players during that time period. Seriously, bravo BBC. Spectacular documentary.
  • Parts Unknown, Detroit Special (2013) - Antony Bourdain takes his CNN travel show to the Motor City in this food-stuffed episode. Mr. Bourdain takes his talents to my favorite coney spot in the city, Duly's in Southwest, which is probably the highlight of the episode. He also has pupusas, homemade barbecue, beers with Fox 2's Charlie LeDuff, and hung out with the Detroit Mower Gang. For those who love urban exploration Anthony tackles that too, meeting up with Allan Hill, who at that time still lived in the Packard Plant. Overall I did enjoy this episode, and Parts Unknown is one of my favorite shows currently running. I'm not sure what it was though, but I found Anthony to be much more of an asshole in this episode than in others. Maybe it was just the part of me that loves Detroit that couldn't handle his criticisms, but for the most part his criticisms were pretty spot on. I really do hope he eventually comes back for another visit, because I would like to see him prove himself wrong. Near the end of his episode in Detroit he pretty much said Detroit is fucked, and I hope that another visit a couple years later would change that misconception. I guess we will see.
  • Noisey Detroit With Big Sean & Danny Brown (2016) - Noisey stops in Detroit to show their viewers what has become of the Detroit rap scene. They catch up with Danny Brown, talk with lesser known rappers like Payroll Giovanni of Doughboyz Cashout, and talk with the mother and friends of late rapper Dex Osama. The show also later heads to California to talk to Big Sean in his home about the city he was raised in. It is really interesting to hear rappers talk about Detroit and how it influenced their music. I really enjoyed the interview with Danny Brown because he had some really interesting things to say about why Detroit rap is so raw and grimy. If you enjoy this video, I highly recommend checking out Complex's YouTube Channel. They have tours of Detroit with both Big Sean and Danny Brown. 
Detroit rapper, Danny Brown.

Detroit rapper, Danny Brown.

If you didn't know, I'm also huge into music. I want to close out every blog post with a song I've been feeling lately. Not necessarily a new track, just something that I've connected with lately. 

Now playing - Kurt Kobain - Proof