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By Phil Hall | December 20, 2012

In many ways, Detroit is the urban equivalent of the elderly lady in the television commercial who cries about having fallen and not being able to get up: a once-vibrant city that was home to a powerful workforce and diverse population, Detroit never truly recovered its footing after the debilitating social upheaval of the 1960s or the equally traumatic loss of jobs after the collapse of the automobile industry. Unlike other cities that successfully reinvented themselves through gentrification and innovative economic initiatives, Detroit somehow never found the formula to move into a stronger future.

Mark Dworkin and Melissa Young’s documentary focuses on the private microeconomic efforts by Detroit residents to revitalize their blighted neighborhoods. Some of the efforts have begun to pay off: abandoned lots have been transformed into organic gardens, small businesses have offered financial empowerment, and educational programs are instilling tomorrow’s generation with lessons of self-worth and community pride.

Larger problems, however, continue to haunt the city: a glut of foreclosed housing, long-simmering distrust between African American communities and the police, and the absence of industrial opportunities to fill the void left by the withdrawal of manufacturing jobs.

While there is plenty of blame to go around for the seemingly endless difficulties that bedevil the city, the teachers, entrepreneurs, community leaders and agricultural experts interviewed in the film are more focused in harnessing positive energy and working to a better tomorrow. Indeed, the can-do attitude on display here results in a documentary that is provocative and invigorating.

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