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19/11/2009

Detroit 'Requiem' Composed For Two

An award-winning independent production company has been commissioned by BBC Two to produce a documentary that will tell the 'roller-coaster' story of a US city's automotive industry.
Told through the testimony of the people who lived through it, Requiem for Detroit?, is a single episode 75-minute programme that is being directed by Julien Temple, from Films of Record, a Ten Alps company which specialises in high quality factual programming
He said that it will be powered by extraordinary archive – vivid projections of the famous American city's heyday on its now abandoned buildings – and the irrepressible music that continues to come out of Detroit, from ragtime and rap to techno.
The documentary will chart the rise and fall of the 'Big Three', General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, and the impact the decline of these giants has had on the city.
Detroit was at the forefront of the American dream of the 20th Century. The fourth largest city in the US, it was also one of the wealthiest, housing the country's earliest shopping malls.
America's first major freeway was also built in Detroit to facilitate the increasing number of commuters into the city.
But the 21st century has seen the American dream - powered by the Big Three - slide into a nightmare for Detroit.
Levels of black inner city poverty, hunger and unemployment have reached critical proportions, in grim contrast to the affluent white suburbs which surround the city.
Requiem for Detroit? will include interviews with the people living amongst the deserted auto plants, closed schools and failing infrastructure, as well as those who are based in the consumer utopia of the suburbs.
It will also feature interviews with Motown star Martha Reeves and beat poet John Sinclair.
Julien Temple said: "Detroit was the frontier city in the US, powering the American dream. What I find fascinating is the fact that it is still ahead of the game, becoming the first big US city to virtually fall off the map."
Also commenting, Roger Graef, Executive Producer, Films of Record, said: "Detroit has effectively become a ghost town. Its police stations have been abandoned and the once thriving office blocks now sit empty, paperwork still left on desks. At rush hour, the freeways are deserted.
"Many people have written it off completely, but those left within the city limits still have lives to live and strongly conflicting opinions about what lies ahead for the city. Seeking to raise questions rather than impose answers, Requiem for Detroit? will allow Detroiters themselves to examine their own visions of the future," he said.
The documentary's producer, George Hencken, added: "Detroit was a city at the vanguard of the future, the crucible for the cars and music which symbolised the American Dream the world over, and its post urban post-industrial chaos serves as a warning to the rest of the world.
"But despite its ruined landscape there is still hope, as those living within the city’s limits continue to fight for its survival, creating their own solutions such as urban farming and a strong network of young activists."
For BBC Two, Cassian Harrison, Commissioning Executive for the BBC, said: "The story of Detroit is an extraordinary tale of boom and bust at the heart of the American Dream, stretching over an entire century.
"To have Julien Temple bringing this great narrative alive for us is a great privilege," he said.
(BMcC/KMcA)
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