Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Hot August Night

You have to be up to seeing certain films.

"Detroit" is one of them and when I offered Mac a choice of outdoor live music or a movie, she jumped at the latter because, as she informed me, the heat index was in the triple digits.

I hadn't bothered checking the weather since getting back from the beach, so I didn't know about all that. What I could testify to was that my afternoon had ended with a heat nap, so I wasn't going to be upset if I missed an outdoor show tonight.

But more importantly, as she pointed out, she also felt able to handle what we knew was going to be a heavy and difficult movie in the manner of "13th." We agreed that you can't go in to such a painful recreation of history if you're already having a bad day.

We ate in service of my hired mouth in a pleasantly air-conditioned restaurant before moving on to the briefest of mid-century modern architectural tours (one building) in the Museum District, landing finally at Movieland.

I'm at a decided disadvantage when it comes to violent movies (even when it's violence based on real events) given that I don't watch TV and, as a rule, avoid movies with violence. I go to talky movies, films that deal with feelings and thoughts, not beatings and shootings.

And there's a reason for that.

What this meant was that I reflexively and repeatedly closed my eyes during the harrowing scenes between cops and blacks. I'm sorry, I just can't watch that kind of inhumanity. It's gut-wrenching to see a police officer butt someone's head with a rifle or slam them into a wall, so the prolonged torture and beating scenes ensured that the audience stayed uncomfortable.

Close to tears, honestly.

When I wasn't wincing at how the incident in the Algiers Hotel unfolded during the 1967 riots in Detroit, I was learning of the Dramatics' role in it all, having been at the Algiers that night and some of the band members among the tortured.

As a long-time fan of the band - their 1971 debut, "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get," gets regular spins on my turntable - I'd never heard a word about their role in the police brutality incidents that formed the heart of the film's story.

I've since learned that I need to read "The Algiers Hotel Incident" to know more and I intend to.

Walking out, Mac and I talked about how uncomfortable the film had made us and it wasn't much of a leap to see parallels to some of today's policing methods. If it's terrifying for me to think how little has changed in 50 years, I can't wrap my head around how difficult it must be for those more directly affected.

Lean into the difficult conversations, a wise person once told the two of us at a community conversation about race. It should feel unpleasant because what's been allowed to happen in this country is worse than unpleasant. It's a travesty.

I know it's a luxury to wait till you're up to see a film that brings you down. But see it we must.

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