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Requiem for Detroit

Sun Sep 8, 9-10.15pm, BBC4

Director Julian Temple and artist Lowell Boileau are driving through a near-deserted Detroit. A man is squatting on an empty street, begging to no one. Another has fallen from his wheelchair but nobody is around to help him up. Back in 2010, when this film was made, Boileau described the recent history of the Motor City as ‘a slow-motion Katrina’. Right now, in the immediate aftermath of civic bankruptcy and with one-dollar houses on the market, his words feel more prescient and poignant than ever.

Detroit feels post-industrial and almost post-American. Schools are closing by the dozen. Citizens are leaving in droves. And yet this city once epitomised the American Dream. Gangsterish capitalists pumped it full of illusory money. Millions of cars flooded forth. Several generations of brilliant musicians danced in the streets and kicked out the jams.

This superbly evocative film documents the rise and fall, projecting archive scenes on to the side of the city’s derelict buildings and talking to the artists, ex- cons and intrepid youngsters who are tentatively helping the city to live again. Brutally fascinating and filled with worrying resonances closer to home – as industry disintegrates, how long before parts of northern England begin to suffer similar fates?