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Friday, August 25, 2017

How the documentary 'Street Fighting Men' told a Detroit story correctly

Posted By on Fri, Aug 25, 2017 at 6:33 AM

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There's a very interesting piece in The Utah Review this week about a Detroit documentary that was shot several years ago. The documentary is called Street Fighting Men, and it was based on a cover story by John Carlisle — then known to MT readers as Detroitblogger John — concerning retired Detroit police officer James "Jack Rabbit" Jackson. Jackson was a sort of informal sheriff in the city's Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood, described by Carlisle as "de facto leader of the neighborhood, like an unofficial sheriff." The film is now making the rounds at film festivals and getting a good reception.

The story struck a chord with Utah-based filmmaker Andrew James, who decided to make a film about Jackson. As the story in the Utah Review tells it, James decided he couldn't do Detroit justice by paratrooping in to tell one of the city's stories.

As a white filmmaker, James also was sensitive to presenting the neighborhood’s story with dignity, integrity and respect that echoed its unique history, along with the emotional scars and pains that were manifest in this war for self-determination and preservation. As the young filmmaker explored Jack Rabbit’s story, he discovered other individuals who also were street fighters unwilling to settle for defeat even as they wondered just how much the battle was worth the effort. ... Making the most consequential decision of the the project, James and his wife, Jolyn Schleiffarth, realized that full justice in telling their stories could only be accomplished by leaving their Utah home to live in Detroit for more than a year.

The article says that the "creative return on that investment is more than ample, incisive and enlightening in Street Fighting Men, the best documentary in recent years about Detroit’s crises."

It's a good read, and a piece of journalism that features several references near and dear to MT, from Carlisle to longtime MT editorial adviser Herb Boyd. Click here to have a look.

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