Detroit, directed by Kathryn Bigelow '81

Alumna Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit is Poised to Become One of the Year’s Major Films

July 27, 2017

Detroit poster


Detroit, the latest film by Columbia Film Program alumna Kathryn Bigelow ’81, will open on August 4, and has already begun to receive high praise.

The film is set in the Midwestern city during the summer of 1967 and centers on an event known as the “Algiers motel incident,” in which three African-American men were killed and several others injured by members of the Detroit Police Department, and on the the 12th Street Riot, which was going on simultaneously. The film stars John Boyega, Will Poulter, and John Krasinski, among others.

Bigelow previously directed The Hurt Locker (2009), for which she won the Academy Award for Best Director (the film also took home the award for Best Picture), and Zero Dark Thirty (2012), which was nominated for five Academy Awards (it won, in a tie, for Sound Editing).

Peter Travers, writing in Rolling Stone, said of the new film: “I'm not sure rave reviews or buzzing awards talk are enough to express the amplitude of what director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal achieve in Detroit, a film about race riots from half a century ago. It's a hardcore masterpiece that digs into our violent past to hold up a dark mirror to the systemic racism that still rages in the here and now. Tragically, this incendiary topic could not be more timely or in need of clarifying debate.”

Michael Phillips, of the Chicago Tribune, called the film an “artfully frazzled mosaic of suffering” that puts viewers “through the wringer in the name of truth, injustice and what many see, still, as the American way with police brutality.”

In an interview with NPR, Bigelow said she was drawn to the Algiers motel incident around the time of the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the protests against police misconduct that ensued there. “I was kind of really emotionally moved by that,” she said. “And felt that this story was an American tragedy that was important enough to be told.”

She added, of the events described in the film, “These events seem to recur—this is a situation that was 50 years ago, yet it feels very much like it's today…. I can only hope that there's an urgency and a necessity for it.”

Watch the trailer for Detroit here.