Detroit, you love her or you leave her… not! – Not even hurt

Imagine a place to live where urban farms, bicycle workshops, wi-fi networks, fundraising, music or even skate-parks are totally imagined and managed by the inhabitants. A city where the inhabitants build a society of sharing by becoming kings of resourcefulness and DIY (Do It Yourself).

You are in Detroit, Michigan, filming location for a webdocumentary on the transition of this city-symbol of assembly-line work towards a new collaborative economy. Far from clichés, the pretty duo of journalists Nora Mandray and Hélène Bienvenu A group of mechanic girls, an urban farmer and a hacker have been following there for a year. All of them are trying to change their city on their own scale, by setting up projects with their own resources, inspired by an ideal of a sustainable society.

We recycle in the D
We recycle in the D, We recycle in Detroit

A utopia come true

In 2010, freshly graduated from Sciences-Po, the two friends wanted to make a film about utopia around the world. A broad theme… but at that time, urban agriculture “took root”, and the angle imposed itself, in Detroit: “the phenomenon fascinated us, because it seemed to be a solution to many problems in times of crisis. And above all, it was finally a more authentic way of life”, Explains Hélène.

« After several weeks of work there, talking with the Detroiters, we realized that Detroit was the epicenter of an even larger movement: DIY (Do It Yourself) »Says Nora. What started as a matter of survival has turned into a way of life, making Detroit THE city at the forefront of the “back to earth” movement of the 2000s. There, we go beyond Do It Yourself to live off “Do It Ourselves” and “collaborative consumption” on a daily basis !

Apocalypse now ?

But before that, it is the ruins, omnipresent, that mark. « The Central Station, this giant abandoned train station, is fascinating, hypnotic… just like the Packard Plant, a crumbling puppet factory ” says Hélène, fascinated by these marks of the economic trauma through which the city passes and the way in which the “Detroiters” overcome it with pride, them who have learned to cope with the decline of public services.

It is also the segregation between whites and blacks that troubles. « The lines of demarcation move but do not disappear “Testifies Nora,” the contrast is above all between the city within the city walls and its suburbs – overwhelmingly white ”. In this chaos, nature takes back its rights: ” the urban landscape really takes by the throat, there is a clash between the post-apocalyptic and the poetic in Detroit… ”, she adds.

African American pride
Detroit 8 Mile Wall, American black pride is displayed in Detroit

A taste of the future?

To better understand, our two reporters immerse themselves completely. They start by helping an association that isolates the homes of residents who need it most during the winter. ” It was a good slap. This is where we become aware of the great distress in which a large part of the city lives ” says Hélène.

For them, it is obvious: the culprits are numerous, but the 20th century productivist, born and died in Detroit, partly explains the fall. « The Detroiters were the first to suffer from the mirage of limitless growth. They are learning lessons today: they are building the society of tomorrow with what remains of the previous one. It does not happen without difficulty or difficulty, it starts slowly but it is precisely today that it is necessary to speak about it!“, Adds the journalist.

Hélène and Nora also helped with work in urban farms, bicycle workshops or soup kitchens, they took part in “community meetings” and conferences, with and without a camera. ” The dialogue went both ways, on occasion the Detroiters questioned us about our own policies in France! “ they explain.

Just « D » it

The city marks as much as it haunts you, it seems. Residents are so proud to be part of urban renewal that they often talk about it as if it were a person. Some even go so far as to tattoo the map of Downtown, or the letter “D” on the body, it is to say the spirit of (re) invention which pushes the “makers”, these men and women of activist ancestry who have remained out of spite or by choice to make their city a field of all possibilities!

« The great thing about the Detroiters is that they take the lead. They don’t wait for the supermarkets to come back (because they are almost all gone!), They choose a vacant space to plant a community garden without asking anyone’s opinion ” explains Hélène.

Carmen mecano Detroit i t
Carmen, Fender Benders

Detroit i love you

Today, Nora uses her knowledge acquired at UCLA film school to the journalistic know-how of her polyglot of co-director. (Hélène speaks seven languages ​​fluently!) To imagine a web documentary, the ideal medium to combine their respective talents. ” Me, I gather the information, and Nora turns it into stories. And now it’s the format that best suits the exchange of DIY “tips and tricks”! “, enthuses Hélène.

The actions of the three main characters de Détroit je t’aime are not limited to planting, manufacturing or recycling, but to imagine the society of tomorrow that limits waste and puts human value in its rightful place. For Nora, “Their individual stories tell the universal story of living together, thought out at the heart of post-industrial civilization. They keep asking themselves this simple question: what does it mean to be part of a community today? “

With Detroit I love you, ” the idea is also to create a community, to create bridges between cities that face the same challenges of urban renewal »Adds Hélène. If it’s possible in Detroit, isn’t it possible elsewhere?

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