The 2022 Freep Film Festival kicked off last night with its marquee entry, "Gradually, Then Suddenly: The Bankruptcy of Detroit," at the Detroit Film Theatre.
Chad Livengood, a Crain's Detroit Business editor interviewed in the film, writes in a column about it and the panel discussion that followed:
When Philadelphia filmmaker Sam Katz set out to produce a documentary about Detroit's historic bankruptcy some seven years ago, he figured he'd sell it to one of the streaming video giants like Netflix or Hulu and move on.
But as he got deeper into the story about why Detroit filed for bankruptcy on July 18, 2013, the former municipal finance adviser realized there was a more important story to tell to a narrower audience of decision-makers:
Your town could be next.
That, Livengood writes, is the main takeaway from Detroit's epic battle with financial insolvency, which concluded in 2014 after the so-called Grand Bargain was struck, preserving the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts in return for $816 million scraped together from foundations, private donors and taxpayers. Many American cities could find themselves in the same fix Detroit did
Not all cities have such a valuable bargaining chip, which doesn't make Detroit a model to be followed as much as a really interesting case for a feature-length documentary.
If you missed the sold-out screening, you try to can catch it later at two commercial theaters:
A series of free screenings of "Gradually, Then Suddenly" are planned across Southeast Michigan over the next week, including public shows Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at the Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township (RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets) and at 7:30 p.m. May 4 at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor.
After that, Katz is planning to take the film to civic organizations, chambers of commerce, lawmakers in other states and graduate schools of law, public policy, urban affairs and journalism to get the documentary of Detroit's fiscal demise in front of current and future decision-makers.
A stop at Netflix or Hulu would be nice, too.