Don't forget the Motor City - Page 2

Rick Prelinger uncovers an American story in Lost Landscapes of Detroit

The other thing about Lost Landscapes of Detroit is that there's nothing about Hudson's in the film. Everybody goes on in a senile way about Hudson's and how wonderful it was — let's get over it, you know? We have two things we have to get over if we're going to move forward, May '68 and Hudson's.

SFBG Lost Landscapes contains a film about a newspaper coverage of an antiwar protest that is interesting because it doesn't look to quote the protest figures who are usually lionized, and because it foregrounds another 20th-century industry in trouble: newspapers and print media. Same with the movie of the Detroit News' June Brown talking with an ex-daily News reader who does her hair. It's an off-the-cuff but perfectly precise discussion of racial bias in journalism.

RP It's kind of like looking to the periphery for the inside truth. I've always found that to be true, and it relates to the kind of film I collect and the material I foreground. There it is, in some industrial film — intelligent, critical city residents demanding a certain level of media accountability.

SFBG There's a show-not-tell tactic to your placement of archival footage. Lost Landscapes begins with a black-and-white industrial newsreel trumpeting that "any picture of America without automobiles is hopelessly out of date." It ends with a silent color home movie in which the city's name is spelled out in greenery.

RP I hate the course that recent documentaries have taken, in which they have characters undergoing crises that are resolved in Act 3. It's like Mad Libs. Dramatically, most documentaries today are almost identical.

I've been working on a long-form film about travel, mobility, and tourism in America, largely comprised of home movie footage. It's based on the idea that there's nothing more attractive and seductive and fascinating than traveling, especially by car. We've come to see it not just as an entitlement, but as a right. But how can we think about this in a period where you can't afford gas at $4 a gallon, or there may not be any fuel anymore? It's thinking toward a time when mobility isn't a given.


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