Shots and plots 

Detroit Docs

What a week to savor metro-Detroit citizenship. After an election in which the good guys (er, gal) prevailed against racist ploys and right-wing scare tactics, it’s good to walk outside and take a deep breath of Motor City tolerance and creativity. Among the many hopeful sprouts in the tri-county sprawl is “Detroit Docs … a festival for real film lovers,” three days (Nov. 15-17) of documentary film screenings at the Hastings Street Ballroom in the Detroit Exchange Cultural Complex, 715 E. Milwaukee, Detroit. Filmmakers from Ann Arbor, Detroit, Ferndale, Atlanta, Brooklyn, Seattle, Toronto, Australia, the Czech Republic, France and the U.K., among many others, have submitted mostly shorts and a few feature-length documentaries to this first-of-its-kind program for our area.

Notables include: Ferndale-based Matt Cantu’s homage to pizza maker-folk sculptor Silvio Barile, Silvio: A Story About Art & Pizza; Spanish director Inaki Arteta’s Sin Libertad, a prize-winning look at terrorism’s victims; Ann Arbor director Chris Cook’s vitally relevant study, The Sprawling of America, Part I: Inner City Blues; Benjamin Meade’s intriguing odyssey from Kansas to Budapest and back again, Vakvagany (pictured); a reprise of Gary Glaser’s 1997 Emmy-winning BORDERLINE: The Story of 8 Mile Road, his 30-minute take on our favorite stretch of desolation; Friction, Robert Ellmann’s much-acclaimed, weirder-than-weird animated tale of a mad scientist from Green Bay; and Denis A. Charles: An Interrupted Conversation, an in-depth memorial to the great avant-garde jazz drummer. And that’s just a sampling of the more than 30 films “Detroit Docs” has in store.

On Saturday, the Detroit Filmmakers Coalition offers a 10:30 a.m. film-improv session, “Super 8 Saturday.” And on Sunday, there’s an 11:30 a.m. brunch-workshop, “Making Docs in Detroit: Reality and Possibility,” with Wayne State University professor Daniel Marcus, director Gary Glaser, producer Kathy Vander and artist-filmmaker Robert Andersen. Tickets for the festival are $10 per day or $25 for the weekend. Visit for a complete schedule and other info.


Critical Mass

While documentaries concern themselves with representing what was and is, the 37 participants in “Critical Mass: An Exhibit of Architecture, Art and Design” are energized by what could be. The show that runs through Dec. 20 at MONA (Museum of New Art, 1249 Washington Blvd., Suite #200 in the historic Book Building, Detroit) features a range of proposals, plans, drawings, photographs, installations and other works by Detroit-area architects, artists and designers on the theme of possibilities for a reconceived Motor City.

How many of us — driving through urban land returned to fields and dotted with structural relics — have imagined a new metro Detroit, one that provides instead of divides, one that replaces instead of displaces? Well, the mostly young minds of “Critical Mass” are all about that.

For instance, University of Detroit Mercy architecture student Dale Lauzon begins the narrative for his “Linear Park System” with the words “Imagine: A place in Detroit that …” His plans for a chain of green spaces on Detroit’s near east side make use of already existing waterways and projected footpaths to create “an image of ecological awareness and integrated synergetic technology.”

Two absolutely riveting drawings by Cranbrook Art Academy graduate Mike Paradise show us what “Detroit United Railway’s Interurban Lines” might look like. That’s right, mass transit all over the damn place — from downtown to Pontiac, another line to Ann Arbor, another to Toledo, another … you get the picture.

A model by Stephen D. Landon proposes a Gay & Lesbian Film & Video Archive and Theater. Vibeke Schroeder’s photos document the in-process Bunche Arboretum as evidence of what a little concerted effort can do. And printmaker Susan Goethel Campbell and sculptor Wendy McGaw turn our all-too-familiar surroundings into things of beauty that function as models for real life.

This Sunday, Nov. 17, “Critical Mass” presents a 3 p.m. symposium on “Architecture and Detroit,” with painter-Webmaster Lowell Boileau, local architect and U of D Mercy instructor Julie Kim, Jason Young from U of M’s architecture school, Israeli architect Eyal Weizman, architect-artist Young-jae Park and yours truly (yes, it must be disclosed). Visit for more info.

George Tysh is the Metro Times arts editor. E-mail him at [email protected]

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