Wednesday, August 30, 2000

Road to reality

In the poetic tradition of the true-grit masters.

Posted By on Wed, Aug 30, 2000 at 12:00 AM

The earnest form of social protest found in Italian neorealist cinema long ago fell out of favor in American movies, but David Riker remains a true believer. His feature debut, The City (La Ciudad), shows why films such as Vittorio de Sica’s The Bicycle Thief (1948) continue to resonate in both hearts and minds.

Neorealism at its best captures with unvarnished simplicity the daily struggles of the disenfranchised, while connecting emotionally with audiences through a pure form of empathy. There’s poetry in Riker’s black-and-white images of New York City, a megalopolis which attracts Latin American immigrants looking for a glimpse of a better life. They exist on the fringes of the American dream, and in four haunting stories, writer-director-editor Riker illuminates a hidden world.

“Bricks” finds a group of day laborers taken from a busy street corner to the eerily quiet site of a partially demolished warehouse. Here, they chip off old mortar and stack the reclaimed bricks in neat piles. Their hard labor is underscored by a gently imploring letter from a lonely wife whose Honduran village is now home only to women and children. The bookend to this tale of worker exploitation is the equally wrenching “Seamstress,” where Ana (Silvia Goiz) desperately tries to collect long-overdue sweatshop wages so she can send money to her sick daughter.

“Home” chronicles the meeting of Francisco (Cipriano Garcia), newly arrived from Mexico, and Maria (Leticia Herrera), who feels like an indentured servant to the needs of her far-off family. In the lyrical “Puppeteer,” the only family a father (Jose Rabelo) cares about is his young daughter Dulce (Stephanie Viruet), who revels in his marvelous stories but doesn’t understand why she needs to start attending school.

The faces in La Ciudad are extraordinary: This cast of nonprofessionals demonstrates what’s lost when movies only focus on the conventionally beautiful. David Riker began his career as a photographer, and by looking deeper than the surface of these people’s lives — with genuine curiosity and no hint of condescension — he’s transformed the familiar into an exquisite piece of folk art.

Showing exclusively at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward, Detroit), Monday at 7:30 p.m. Call 313-833-3237.

Serena Donadoni writes about film and culture for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 19, 2022

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2022 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation