Last night I saw Detroit, starring John Boyega and Will Poulter.
The 1967 Detroit Rebellion was a reaction to a police raid of an after-hours unlicensed black bar, where a celebration was being held to welcome back soldiers. Over 40 lives were lost and nearly 2,000 people were injured during the five days of riots.
One incident that erupted during that unsettling time happened at the Algiers Motel, where a group of young black men and two white women were held hostage by white police and tortured because of a gunshot the cops thought they heard coming from the property. By the end of the incident, three unarmed black men were dead. No weapon was ever found.
In Kathryn Bigelow's fictionalized version of that event, she retells what happened with minor poetic license. Though most are represented accurately (according to survivors and witnesses), dialog of course has to be imagined with the exception of phrases/insults that were recounted in court transcripts at the murder trials.
The film is long, but so was that night for the innocent victims who suffered at the hands of brutal racists. Watching their agony and seeing the merciless actions of the white men continue is just a painful reminder that we haven't come so far since then. Police brutality is alive and well in America, as is racism, so we must force ourselves to sit through art such as this to see why we can't let these injustices continue.
The performance Will Poulter gives as Krauss, the ringleader of the whole operation, is Oscar-worthy, as you can barely look at him by the time the film concludes. Also stellar is John Boyega as Dismukes, a black guard who witnessed the incident, but remained unharmed because he "befriended" the cops. The struggle to stay silent is reflected in his eyes as the horrors play out.
Though it was unpleasant and uncomfortable to watch, I truly hope that high schools around the country will show this film as part of their Civil Rights lessons and show how a dark period in America's past played out. If we don't convince the youth to be color-blind, we'll find ourselves right back in that horrible place in no time.