Urban Stories of Hope for the Ordinary People of Detroit

When industry, free market economy and corporations fail us – resetting to a good, old strategy of relying on people and ideas to build the future is the only way to go.

It hasn’t been exactly peachy creamy in Detroit for decades now, as its automobile industry continues to crumble and its population continues to plummet with each year. Even more so as of December 2013 when the U.S. Judge Steven Rhodes officially declared Detroit bankrupt. Vacant, desolate and abandoned perhaps are the most accurate adjectives to describe it these days, however, there are people determined to make something out of this so-called ghost city.

'Detroit je t'aime' Documentaries written by: Hélène Bienvenu & Nora Mandray
‘Detroit je t’aime’ Created by: Hélène Bienvenu & Nora Mandray

What people usually do in times of great upheaval is to either escape, or to try whatever is in their power to pick themselves up and try again (thank you, Aaliyah). DIY ethics is more than just an anti-consumeristic trend, but rather a strategy to regain control over one’s future prospects as well as a way to rebuild and/or heal the community involved. The more people devote themselves to the communal DIY ethic, the more probable the positive outcome.

This seems to be the guiding thought of the people behind the DIY manifesto, who state:  “In the shadow of clichés, DIY Manifesto is a vivid portrait of those who build the society of tomorrow”. They follow and document the reinvention of the urban Detroit life as inspired by the DIY movement, which gains momentum as a backlash to the financial ruin in desolate Detroit.

Photo courtesy of: DIY Manifesto
Photo courtesy of: DIY Manifesto

DIY Manifesto is a web documentary written by Berlin based filmmaker Nora Mandray and Budapest based journalist Hélène Bienvenu, and produced by Fabienne Servan-Schreiber and David Bigiaoui. The team have so far produced three documentaries that all revolve around everyday people who decide to take matters in their own hands. Their narrative is a classic story of getting your hands dirty and getting down to work. As simple as that, nothing is hopeless; when there’s a will, there’s a way.

The so far three documentaries follow a queer bike community who repair their own bikes, which is an urban trend according to this article, a hacker whistleblower and an urban farmer who decides to repurpose an abandoned building into a three story greenhouse. The documentaries are currently being screened in various festivals. If the teaser above sparked your interest, head over here to watch the above mentioned documentaries.

Photo courtesy of: DIY Manifesto
Photo courtesy of: DIY Manifesto

True heroes and heroines of today are really just people who do something exceptional, which is put simply, producing something useful with the power of their minds. The ideas we have and what we manage to muster left with our own devices defines the core of our humanity.

It’s by far not enough to be fed up with it all. We all are. Choosing to stop bitching about it and directing our energies somewhere useful is what makes the difference. However small and insignificant it may seem at the start.

Detroit je t’aime


Documentaries written by: Hélène Bienvenu & Nora Mandray

Produced by: Fabienne Servan-Schreiber & David Bigiaoui / Cinétévé



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