2012 Milwaukee Film Festival: Day 13
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Today is day number 13 of the 2012 Milwaukee Film Festival, which runs through Oct. 11. In order to help you make sense of the bewildering array of films and panel discussions, The A.V. Club will be featuring selected picks for each day of the fest. If you ever wanted to stalk us (and see some great films in the process), now’s your chance.
• Detropia (Oriental Theatre, 4:30 p.m.)
Early in Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s documentary Detropia, a woman who spends her free time exploring Detroit’s many abandoned buildings stares out from the kitchen of a dilapidated apartment building. The room around her is falling apart, but her gaze is fixed on the far distance as she stares out across treetops and houses toward the distant city center. “Can’t leave, man,” she murmurs. “Can’t fucking leave.”
Those who can leave Detroit apparently already have. With auto-industry and other industrial jobs vanishing en masse, the city’s population has plummeted, leaving entire blocks abandoned. At times, as Ewing and Grady’s cameras prowl its empty streets, the city seems like the world’s largest ghost town. For those who remain, times are tough, and by all accounts, getting tougher. One city official estimates unemployment at 50 percent. “We’re where we were in 1929,” says the owner of the Raven Lounge, a nightclub once filled with factory workers coming off their shifts. “They’re just not saying it.”
• Last Call At The Oasis (Oriental Theatre, 7:30 p.m.)
Ismail Serageldin, a former vice president of the World Bank, famously predicted that the wars of the 21st century would be fought not over oil but for water, a non-renewable resource for which there is no alternative. And while Jessica Yu’s documentary Last Call At The Oasis downplays that particular claim, it offers plenty of reasons to panic about the future availability of H20. Or rather, make that clean, drinkable water, since what’s at stake is not just the availability of water but its usability: Your taps may work, but that’s no guarantee that the clear liquid that flows out isn’t contaminated with anything from industrial solvents to herbicides that have caused frogs to change sex.
Focusing overwhelmingly on water-related issues in the U.S.—and thereby paying only glancing heed to the spread of waterborne illnesses and the privatization of the water supply in developing nations—Last Call targets a country that is still largely isolated (or at least believing itself to be) from the looming global crisis. Where European regulatory agencies operate according to the precautionary principle, whereby a chemical must be proved safe before being introduced into the environment, in the U.S. the situation is reversed, which in practice means that long-term harm must be caused before it’s addressed.