The two documentarians who made the Oscar-nominated Jesus Camp, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, have turned their cameras on Detroit, feeling it "may well be a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the country." In an excerpt of their new documentary, called Dismantling Detroit, Ewing and Grady look at a group of men who use American metal, in the form of vans and pickup trucks, to dismantle American metal, in the form of Detroit buildings.

The point is to get to scrap metal, and scavenging trade that has led to issues like power outages when thieves cut telephone lines to get to the copper. The men in Dismantling are likewise said to be engaged in illegal activity, but the results of their activity seem to be no more than one less abandoned building on the block.

Head to the The New York Times or YouTube to watch the clip and listen to a few other Detroiters' takes on what might be happening, and why. Fair warning, the video contains some explicit, Not Safe For Work language.

The documentary will premiere at this year's Sundance Film Festival.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 74 Comments
      Jarred
      • 2 Years Ago
      I know this may seem trivial, but..."issues like power outages when thieves cut telephone lines to get to the copper" telephone lines being cut lead to telephone outages, power lines being cut lead to power outages. Just saying and I know I sound like kinda a dick bringing that up.
      dondonel
      • 2 Years Ago
      Do any of you realize that the blighted area of Detroit (metropolitan area) is only 1% of the total? Can you name any city in US, that was already developed prior the 50s, and has less than 1% of the city abandoned and/or destroyed? I bet you cannot.
        axiomatik
        • 2 Years Ago
        @dondonel
        Exactly. People are talking about Detroit as if all southeast Michigan is a post-apocalyptic wasteland. In reality, Detroit is still the 12 largest metro in the country. There is still tremendous wealth in the Detroit Metro, a huge population of educated professionals, and tons of industry. While the population of the city core has declined, the surrounding suburbs have expanded for decades. 100-yr old factories in middle of Detroit were replaced by newer factories in surrounding communities. The problems of Detroit were common issues facing every major city pre-dating the automobile. Once people could afford cars and a house in the suburbs, they no longer wanted to live in cramped apartments or tiny houses in the middle of the city. Every city faced depopulated cores. Detroit had it worst than most with race riots in the 60's and Detroit's primary industry contracting significantly in the 80's forward.
          LUSTSTANG S-197
          • 2 Years Ago
          @axiomatik
          Ask those people if they have ever been there, or even Michigan for that matter. Whenever I have, I get an answer along the lines of "Nope, I have never been there, and have no desire to", like it's Iran or something. Many of those people formed their opinions of the city and state based solely on what they hear/read on the news.
      imoore
      • 2 Years Ago
      Since we are playing the blame game here, I'll add this. I blame all the political factions (liberal, conservative, tea party, libertarians, moderates, etc.) and so-called "social empowerment" groups for selling the "my ideas are better for the country" kool-aid to the public, and the public for buying into it. these folks are the modern-day equivalent of the traveling "miracle" evangalests and carnival barkers, trying to get us to believe everything they say. If this country is ever going to get back to prominence (social, economical, financial, educational, and dare I say, moral), the citizens are going to have to take a stand for what's right. Stop worrying about political party affiliation; once the participants get a taste of the political apple and the power surge it gives them, it bcomes their drug and they can't break away form it. The situation in Detroit can be reversed if the citizens would just motivate themselves instead of waiting for the government to do something. And should a politician show up, put the joker to work instead of giving him a platform for a self-serving photo-op.
      dondonel
      • 2 Years Ago
      BTW, this is how Detroit metro looks like to its residents (I took the pictures): http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1449430 Contrast these with what you see in the media.
        PikeAndPine
        • 2 Years Ago
        @dondonel
        yes but that is probably from the mostly white Detroit as it is a racially and economically divided city. http://www.flickr.com/photos/walkingsf/4982034696/in/set-72157624812674967/lightbox/ More pics of the nicer Detroit http://www.urbanophile.com/2010/04/11/the-other-side-of-detroit/
          dondonel
          • 2 Years Ago
          @PikeAndPine
          @PikeAndPine, Half of the pictures there were taken in Midtown, which has mostly black residents. It is a very nice area, and part of the Detroit city proper. It is worth repeating that the decayed area of Detroit spreads over some 40 sq mi, which is very little compared to the overall metropolitan area (3500 sq mi). But for the casual visitor of downtown Detroit it is a shock, because it is immediately adjacent to the downtown. Now, obviously, the portrayals of Detroit in the media, reflect rather the political climate in US than the actual life in the city.
      mapoftazifosho
      • 2 Years Ago
      AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM!
      Skicat
      • 2 Years Ago
      Mercedes-Benz U.S. Tech Centers: Long Beach, CA and ANN ARBOR, MI. NOT Alabama. Why? Vast engineering talent in SoCal because of aerospace and SE, MI because of autos. Toyota U.S. Tech Center: ANN ARBOR, MI (for over 25 years). NOT Alabama; Kentucky; Indiana; Texas; West Virginia, Mississippi or even near its U.S. HQ in Torrance, CA. Why? See above. Hyundai U.S. Tech Centers: Irvine, CA and SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, MI. NOT Alabama. GM GM Powertrain: Pontiac, MI Lake Orion Assembly: Chevy Sonic; Buick Verano Hamtramck Assembly: Malibu, Impala, Volt/Opel Ampera Delta Twp Assembly: GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Denali Bay City Powertrain: engine components Flint Engine South/Flint East: 1.3L I4 for Cruze and Volt/components Flint Truck: Silverado/Sierra Milford Proving Grounds Chrysler/FIAT Chrysler HQ and Proving Grounds Jefferson Avenue DETROIT: Jeep Grand Cherokee Chrysler STERLING HEIGHTS: Chrysler and Dodge midsize sedans Global Engine DUNDEE Warren Assembly: Dodge Ram Ford Flat Rock: Mustang Product Development Center Dearborn: Birthplace of many Ford products Dearborn Proving Grounds Dearborn Engine Dearborn Stamping Dearborn Truck: F-150 Livonia Transmission Romeo Engine Romeo Proving Grounds Wayne Stamping and Assembly Michigan Assembly: All Focus models sold in North America And I'm sure there are many, many facilities I've missed. Plus dozens, if hundreds of global suppliers who have their U.S. technical and manufacturing facilities in MI. If ya don't live here or work in the auto industry (I do), you have NO IDEA of the talent available in MI. Autos are recovering here. Detroit may be down for the count, but don't count out MI.
      Jason Miller
      • 2 Years Ago
      You simpletons need to stop blaming Liberals or Conservatives as if that argument even matters. That silly crap is all made up to get you to watch news channels so networks can make money. What matters is that people with wealth will always want more wealth and if that means shipping jobs overseas then so be it. The rich people don't care about you and will never care about you. People have to fend for themselves and if all you did with your life was get a crappy factory job after you dropped out of high school then you deserve to have to scavenge for scrap metal to get money if everything falls apart.
        Ducman69
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Jason Miller
        I don't blame liberals or conservatives. I blame people with overly saggy pants.
        PikeAndPine
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Jason Miller
        I quote David Brooks: "For them anything that can’t be counted and modeled is a primitive irrelevancy. On the other hand, there are people who see the European crisis through the prism of some cosmic class war. What matters is not how people conduct themselves, but whether they are a have or a have-not. The burden of proof is against the haves. The benefit of the doubt is with the have-nots. Any resistance to redistribution is greeted with outrage." It is a conservative tendency to remove the human element from policy, and just as common for the left and their jealousy issues to plant envy and greed into the hearts of everyone outside the top20%. Both are not helpful. To be real for a moment though is to acknowledge that life happens, you can't always control what happens to you, and sometimes this is what people do to get by. It isn't a call for us to raise taxes on top wage earners. It should be more of a call for our communities to be more active in helping out those in need, without the vehicle we know as government. Oh... and a documentary called "Waiting for Superman" made an important note: Failing school systems who fail to give their kids a fighting chance create these blighted communities, not so much the other way around.
      Oscar
      • 2 Years Ago
      The obvious questions these film makers don't ask are; 1) Why has Mihcigan "lost half its manufacturing jobs" (as the Documentary states), while other states have added tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs? 2) Why is it that every car manufacturing plant built in the US by foreign auto makers importing tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs have ALL gone to states other than Michigan? 3) Why is Tennessee now the #1 auto manufacturing state, while Michigan ranks "Sixth, behind South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Alabama. The rest of the the top spots are held by Ohio, Mississippi, Texas and Indiana"? 4) What is the difference between Michigan - which is bleeding jobs and population - and other states that are adding manufacturing jobs and population?
        Alex740
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Oscar
        I lean liberal mostly because of social issues but those are very good points and I think a lot more people would be asking these questions and having intelligent conversations if there were less hate spouting Sea Urchins stereotyping liberals and throwing in hot button social issues and more Oscars making these intelligent points.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Oscar
        [blocked]
        Jerry
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Oscar
        Michigan lost MILLIONS of manufacturing jobs. A couple thousand manufacturing jobs in the uneducated south are just tears on a river... They hardly offset what Detroit once was. Ever heard of the Detroit arsenal? We would all be speaking German now if it weren't for Michigan's massive manufacturing infrastructure in the 1930s and 1940s.
          Oscar
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jerry
          1) I never said the jobs in other states (they're not all in the South) offset the ones lost in Michigan. 2) None of what you wrote changes the FACT (and it is a FACT, whether you like it or not) that Michigan continues to bleed jobs and population while other states continue to add jobs and population. 3) Your mention of Detroit's glory days provides further evidence that Michigan chased jobs away. 4) If the Southerners who are attracting foreign investment are "uneducated", and Michigan continues to chase away jobs and population, what does that say about Michigan's level of education?
          Jerry
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jerry
          They go to the south for cheap, right to work labor, not for technical expertise. Want to dodge UAW. UAW is a poster child for radical unionization and are largely the reason that so many have turned their back on union workers. They have a hard time finding people with skilled trades such as millwrights, CNC operators, etc down south though. Lots of Michiganders heading down there to fill these spots, but for much lower pay because there is nothing left. There is also the fact that the Big 3 have outsourced or consolided white collar jobs by the hundreds of thousands. All of this leads to a chain reactions of small. businesses going under who were supported by the lost autoworkers. Not denying that jobs and population are dwindling! I was pointing out Detroit's glory days to highlight the fact that the thousands of new transplant automotive jobs outside Michigan are just a drop a bucket compared to all of the automotive jobs lost in Michigan over the past 30 years. Was poorly worded.
        cashsixeight
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Oscar
        1. Cuz unions 2. Cuz foreign car makers don't want to be around detroit. 3. Cuz no black people? 4. No idea. All of these are guesses.
        Oscar
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Oscar
        Source on Tennessee: http://www.autoblog.com/2011/08/22/tennessee-ranks-top-in-automotive-manufacturing-strength/
      caddy-v
      • 2 Years Ago
      Scenes like this one will be coming to a liberal run city near you sooner than you think. In the case of my state of Illinois it's a only a matter of time intil the entire sate is void of anyone running a business here. Business` accross the state are making deals with Indiana, Wisconsin and Ohio to move there with lower taxes and less regulations. Our glorious leader, Pat Quinn in his infinite wisdom raised taxes on virtually every possible thing he could except the air we breath and I'm sure he's giving that some thought. Personal income tax up by 64% and he's looking for other ways to tax us. Our biggest debt? Public sector pension funds. It's real cool to know a public sector union leader that never taught a class in his life can work one day as a substitute teacher and collect a $100,000 per year pension on top of his union official pension which is also paid for by the taxpayers. That's liberalism for you. Coming to a city near you.
        RGT881
        • 2 Years Ago
        @caddy-v
        Oh for sure...and you know liberalism is always a one way street of short-term thinking a) raise taxes b) increase tariffs/quotas c) increase regulation d) print money to get out debt e) borrow more via ponzi scheme f) believe in notion that government creates jobs. g) create more temporary social programs which then turn into entitlement programs to gain votes during the election year. h) empower unions. When politicians take credit for creating jobs, what they don't talk about is the jobs they've destroyed.
        cashsixeight
        • 2 Years Ago
        @caddy-v
        LOL. Scott Walker and his cronies haven't helped business in Wisco at all. The problem isn't repubs or liberals... it's that it makes no sense to produce anything here. Want a simple no BS solution? 25% import tariff on EVERYTHING IMPORTED ACROSS OUR BORDER. Suddenly American made products will be the cheap ones, and jobs will sprout like weeds. Til then... with mexico, china, and hong kong making everything... we are screwed!
          caddy-v
          • 2 Years Ago
          @cashsixeight
          That's a brilliant solution, start a trade war. For one, we don't have enouph ready to go factories, two, do you honestly think our trading partners would take this lying down and not retaliate ten fold by tripleing their tariffs? three, our now former trading partners would lift tariffs around the world making it impossible for us to sell cow manure with a 100% rebate outside of this country. We don't make anything (so you say) anymore for one simple reason. Americans want everything on the cheap. If it's a matter of paying a penny more for an American built product our fellow countrymen will save that penny and buy the product from China knowing full well the Chinese product is most likely inferior. Corporate taxes here in America are hovering at 35% all of which are passed on to the consumer which in turn increases the price of the product. We have the highest corporate taxes in the world and until some sort of solution to that problem is addressed it's only going to get worse. Fro what it's worth, a building supplier here in Illinois notified me and several other contractors in the area that as of March 1 he is moving his operation to just south of Milwaukee without his 50 some employees. Thank you Governor Quinnochio. Typical lying liberal.
          tinted up
          • 2 Years Ago
          @cashsixeight
          I don't know if a tariff on everything is really a solution. Some things can be made more efficiently in other countries; such as bananas. The REAL solution is to create an environment where companies can maximize profits by operating within our boarders with (SURPRISE!) less taxes...
        Richard
        • 2 Years Ago
        @caddy-v
        Take from people who make good decisions. Give to people who make bad decisions. Repeat.
        RGT881
        • 2 Years Ago
        @caddy-v
        Research concepts of producer surplus/loss, consumer surplus/loss, government gain/loss, and net society gain/loss. Anyways, tariffs/quotas have never worked for an overall gain in society's well-being. All they do is raise prices of not just the foreign made goods, but also domestic. The consumer ALWAYS loses when government engages in such tactics. Moreover, those who are without a job should pay more at Wal-Mart, so another person gets a job? The point of a good standard of living is not to have jobs, but to have purchasing power to have the lifestyle which one inspires to have. Chinese have jobs, and yet majority of them cannot afford to purchase stuff they make because a) their currency is undervalued b) majority of it gets exported overseas here. US needs to raise interest rates above the real rate of inflation, it needs to borrow less, save more. Savings generates investment, investment in turns creates new jobs.
      Charles2337
      • 2 Years Ago
      America is slowly dying, just like the Roman Empire and The British Empire, it will fall. However I think they will go down with a bang... a huge one in the form of war.
        Danaon
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Charles2337
        No, just Detroit. Come to Texas, every week 5 new buildings with businesses in them spring up.
        LUSTSTANG S-197
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Charles2337
        Why do I hear a violin?
      jesscott
      • 2 Years Ago
      Return Detroit to the wild. Trillions of taxpayer dollars from everywhere BUT Detroit have been spent trying to prop it up with criminal politicians, awful public policy, and patently false ideology. Knock it all down, let nature take over, business can move to a more friendly and healthy environment. That's all.
        LUSTSTANG S-197
        • 2 Years Ago
        @jesscott
        I agree with most of what you said, but your final solution of " knock it all down, let nature take over" sounds a little extreme. I can understand why someone who has never been there, or become familiar with the situation there would feel that way. However, as someone who has been there countless times, and reads the newspapers there regularly, I can attest to the fact that there are nice areas within the city limits. These nicer areas have been seeing an influx of more affluent residents in recent years. Downtown is a lot nicer than it was just 8 years ago, and I hear Corktown is experiencing a revival, along with Midtown, and a few other neighborhoods. So, it's not all bad. Again, I agree with much of what you are saying and I don't claim to have the answers, but the logistics of turning it into some nature preserve would be daunting to say the least.
      mchlrus1
      • 2 Years Ago
      Eisen und Stahl. Sure we need more manufacturing jobs, but they need to be skilled and clean. We can't just burn fossil fuels, that effects our health and environment way too much. Hopefully the green boom will catch on, and hopefully kids will realize what a good education can do for them. Parents need to get more involved, and tell them that yes, math is relevant to their future jobs because it helps build critical thinking skills. I am very competitive and I want our country to succeed, we just need more motivated workers. Just like in the documentary " where's the sense of unity workers used to have?"
        PikeAndPine
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mchlrus1
        You can't call the expanding market of choice and awareness of Green a "Boom" if it never caught on... where is this "boom" you speak of when global production, especially of green tech and energy, still outnumbers the demand for it 3 to 1....
          PikeAndPine
          • 2 Years Ago
          @PikeAndPine
          Nick Texas is a great example. But green production world wide still outstrips demand 3:1. Unless government picks up the load, many will not last and the movement unsustained will fall off. This isn't a call for government action, just an acknowledgement that there is no green "boom" and probably won't be until the economy is on more solid footing.
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