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Old 03-26-2017, 06:22 PM   #1
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 15,623
Default Black Day In July in film
'12th and Clairmount' film takes look at Detroit's summer of '67

In 1967, Detroit erupted in one of the worst riots in American history, a rebellion against police brutality and racial inequality in a city where many said it couldn’t happen.
Dorothy Weems could smell something burning.

In the summer of 1967, she was in her mid-30s, a mother of four young children, living on Kendall Street between Lawton and Linwood. She said the air felt different on the morning of Sunday, July 23.

“I didn’t know what it was,” she told the Free Press, recalling the hours after a police raid of a nearby blind pig at 12th Street and Clairmount Avenue triggered the violence that would become known as the Detroit riot. “That’s when we found out all hell broke loose. It was a complete surprise to me. It was a pretty nice area.”

Weems, now 84, lived until the early 1960s in Black Bottom, the predominantly African-American neighborhood that was leveled during the urban renewal movement to make way for the Chrysler Freeway. They were among the many displaced residents who moved in those years into the area around 12th Street, now Rosa Parks Boulevard.

This pivotal period in Detroit history foregrounds the documentary “12th and Clairmount,” which debuts Thursday at the Freep Film Festival and is part of a wide-ranging project reflecting on the 50th anniversary of Detroit’s tumultuous summer of ‘67.

Weems was among the Detroiters who submitted reels of found film to 1967 Detroit Home Movies, spearheaded by the Detroit Institute of Arts. The DIA since last year has collected hundreds of amateur films depicting life in Detroit before, during and after the violent events of that July. Some of the footage appears in “12th and Clairmount.”

The documentary is produced by the Free Press in collaboration with Bridge Magazine and WXYZ-TV (Channel 7). Other cultural institutions such as the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Detroit Historical Society, the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs at Wayne State University and the Detroit Journalism Cooperative will observe and commemorate the anniversary in the months ahead with various exhibits and public engagement projects.

“12th and Clairmount” is directed by Free Press executive video editor Brian Kaufman, an Emmy-winning videographer behind documentaries such as “Packard: The Last Shift” and “Predator/Prey: The Fight for Isle Royale Wolves.”

Kaufman's collaborators on the film include Kathy Kieliszewski, photo and video director at the Free Press as a producer, and journalist Bill McGraw, as a writer-producer who assisted with research and interviews.

McGraw, a former Free Press reporter who now writes for Bridge Magazine, said some of the most compelling film used in "12th and Clairmount" is not of the riot itself, but the everyday images of ordinary people in Detroit.
"The footage donated by the white people is just like footage donated by the black people," he said. "Everyone's dancing in their basements, doing the same sort of dances, kids are riding their old Stingray bikes with their banana seats, playing Wiffle ball in the street or in front of their house. It shows how life was going on often the same for people even though they were living very separate lives."

In addition to the found-film content, “12th and Clairmount” features archival material and some footage shot at the time by WXYZ. It contains audio excerpts from oral histories and newly recorded interviews with witnesses. But, uncommonly for a historical documentary, “12th and Clairmount” does not rely on talking-head commentary, telling the story solely with images from the era paired with voices from unidentified interview subjects.

Dorothy Weems of Detroit holds old film footage sheBuy Photo
Dorothy Weems of Detroit holds old film footage she had of her family and scenes from the city of Detroit following the 1967 riots. "I was just really appalled to see how so many house and stores had burned down. I mean it looked like a war zone," Weems said. She remembers driving around taking pictures of the big trucks with National Guard troops in it. "That was frightening." Some of Weems footage is included with others from the area in Detroit Free Press documentary titled "12th and Clairmount" that will open the 2017 Freep Film Festival. (Photo: Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press)

It contains original music by Detroit hip-hop artist Nick Speed and Italian guitarist Sergio Altamura. The soundtrack will feature two licensed songs that were written specifically about the riot — Gordon Lightfoot’s “Black Day In July” and John Lee Hooker’s “The Motor City Is Burning.”

The only visual content created for the film is artwork by Rashaun Rucker, deputy director of photo and video at the Free Press, who illustrated some key moments for which footage was not available, such as the fateful blind pig raid. Between the illustrations, the home movies and some rare archival content, about 30%-40% of the material in the film has never been seen publicly, Kaufman said.

“There was no original shooting at all. This was purely an exercise in writing and editing,” Kaufman said last week. “More than anything, it was about structuring the story out of what we have rather than thinking about what we had to gather ourselves.

“In a lot of ways it’s like the ultimate Monday-morning quarterback. Because the riot has been so heavily reported and analyzed and editorialized on, and every viewpoint has been thrown out there. That made (some of it) easy, but it made it a lot of work because there were so many viewpoints to consider.”
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