May 27, 2013


Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady


About the Documentary

Detroit was the birthplace of the middle class, an industrial utopia where anyone who worked hard enough could experience the American dream. But today, the Motor City, which has essentially been taken over by the state of Michigan, is on the brink of bankruptcy.

In the past 10 years this Midwestern icon has lost one-fourth of its population and half of its manufacturing jobs. City officials are in the midst of the most dramatic “downsizing” of an American city ever seen — demolishing thousands of homes, reconsolidating massive tracts of excess land, cutting basic services, and encouraging Detroiters in marginal neighborhoods to move.

This is a city in the throes of transition. Those who have stuck with the city are at the breaking point while artists and curious outsiders flock to the city in search of inspiration and opportunity.

Racial tension, globalization, greed, and lack of innovation have led to a moment of truth for Detroit. How the Motor City reboots itself will set the example for countless other post-industrial cities with similar fates. And today the entire country is watching to see if this storied metropolis has the courage, creativity, and grit to reinvent itself — or if it will instead implode.

Detropia is a cinematic tapestry that chronicles the lives of several Detroiters trying to survive and make sense of what is happening to their city. An owner of a blues bar, a young blogger, an auto union rep, a group of young artists, an opera impresario, and a gang of illegal “scrappers” make up an unlikely chorus that illuminates the tale of both a city and a country in a soul-searching mood, grasping for a new identity.

The Filmmakers

Heidi Ewing

Rachel Grady

Detroit-area native Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady are the co-directors of Jesus Camp, an Oscar nominated documentary on the Evangelical right. In 2010, Ewing and Grady premiered 12th & Delaware at the Sundance Film Festival. The film takes a candid look at the war between the pro-life and pro-choice factions. Called “innovators of the documentary craft” by Time Magazine, Ewing and Grady made their documentary feature debut in 2005 with The Boys of Baraka, which was nominated for an Emmy and received the NAACP Award for best documentary before airing on PBS.

The duo also co-directed a recent film on Saudi Arabian teens for MTV and participated in an omnibus film adaptation of the bestselling book Freakonomics. They are currently in development on several projects, including a special on great female athletes for ESPN.

Previously, Ewing delved in the dramatic world of Cuban politics with Dissident, a film about the struggle of (now deceased) Havana-based Nobel Peace Prize nominee Oswaldo Paya. Grady is a private investigator turned filmmaker who explored mental illness in the criminal justice system in Mad Justice.

Ewing and Grady are the co-owners of Loki Films, a production company based in New York City.


Full Credits


  • 2014 Emmy Awards

    Outstanding Editing: Documentary and Long Form

Learn more about the documentary

Join the Discussion

Do you live in a community threatened by urban decay? How are people trying to improve the situation? Is there hope of rising from the ashes?


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