Nuclear, Detroit and Baltimore: three favorites to see this week

What to watch this week, at the cinema or from your sofa? Economic Alternatives has selected a film, a documentary and a series not to be missed.

On the dark rooms poster, you will be able to see nuclear summera film that imagines what would happen in the event of a radioactive leak in France, or Detroiters, a documentary that looks back on the bankruptcy of the city of Detroit, in the United States. For those who prefer a serial evening at home, we recommend We Own This Citywritten by the creators of The Wirewhich takes place in Baltimore and dissects the excesses of the police.

1/ Hooked atoms

The worst is never certain, they say, but the improbable is not impossible either. Who would have imagined at the end of 2019 that the whole world would freeze in the face of a pandemic caused by a virus hitherto unknown? Who would have imagined before 2011 that a tsunami would cause a destructive accident in an ultra-secure nuclear power plant in Japan?

It is this last type of incident that serves as the framework for Gaël Lepingle’s feature film, nuclear summer, in which a radioactive leak occurs in a hexagonal plant. But, it’s a safe bet that the first event influenced the writing of the latter. The parallels with the health crisis are indeed obvious: an invisible threat that literally floats in the ambient air; a disoriented population called upon to confine itself, which oscillates between mutual aid and selfish save-who-can; authorities who distill information in dribs and drabs to avoid panic but, in doing so, fuel anxiety; deserted streets where you can hear the drones flying, and you can go on.

nuclear summer opens with a general shot of a countryside in which a young man is jogging, with the imposing chimneys of a nuclear power station in the background. His headphones screwed on his ears and especially the electro music he spits out at full volume prevent him from hearing the siren sounding to alert the population, like the incessant ringtones that flash on his cell phone. Victor, as he is called, ends up meeting four old high school friends who are victims of a car accident.

Made aware of the situation, he convinces them to take refuge in a neighboring farm while he has only one idea in mind: to join his partner who is pregnant with their first child. But he quickly changes his mind and joins the building that the young people undertake to seal up while trying to find out about the content of the events and what to do in such circumstances.

This 2020s-style disaster film comes at the right time as France finds itself at a turning point in the face of the atom

This disaster film in the 2020s sauce comes at the right time, while France is at a turning point in the face of the atom, its impressive fleet of reactors coming to the end of its course. Opting for a realistic rather than sensationalist treatment, the director seems to want to make us aware of the very real danger of the occurrence of such an accident and its potential consequences. It is probably not fortuitous that he chose to plant a field of wind turbines in front of the power station, as if to symbolize the energy alternative.

By focusing on this small group of young women and men, it also speaks about entering adulthood, which is also marked by uncertainty, questioning and disillusionment.

The nuclear accident is thus coupled with affective and identity crises, the content of which we reserve for you, confining ourselves to pointing out that these take on particular importance in rural areas, as several sociologists have already shown, such as Nicolas Rénahy or Yaëlle Amsellem-Mainguy.

Anyway, social and political film in its own way, nuclear summer will also delight horror lovers. He reminds us in passing that there is no need for elaborate special effects to create an anxiety-provoking atmosphere. A way perhaps of suggesting that the catastrophe does not need to be spectacular to deploy its effects. Any resemblance to a certain reality is obviously purely coincidental…

Igor Martinache

nuclear summer, by Gaël Lepingle, in theaters since May 11.

2/ The deformity of a city

Detroit, the motor city of the United States automobile, is no more than a shadow of what it was. The thing is now well known, but beyond the clichés of streets whose houses are falling into ruin, how have the inhabitants of the metropolis of Michigan experienced this decline? This is the subject of the wonderful documentary Detroiters, by Andreï Schtakleff, not to be confused with the series of the same name.

Breaking with a certain misery, this one gives the floor to various inhabitants, young and especially old. In front of the French documentary filmmaker’s camera, in their stories, these women and men outline in small touches a memory that is in many respects an alternative to the official stories, which once exalted prosperity in the hope of hosting the Olympic Games, or insist today about rebirth after a decline that would have struck like a natural disaster.

Detroit’s dynamic evolution, far from being the only result of economic forces that would exceed us, is first and foremost a matter of political choices.

However, this documentary reminds us that the dynamics of evolution of Detroit, like all the others, far from being the only result of economic forces which would exceed us, is initially a matter of political choices. The film thus points to the little-known practice on this side of the Atlantic of ” redlining », which consisted for the credit agencies in establishing maps delimiting the areas for which they agreed to lend to future buyers, provided that they were populated mainly by whites.

As a result, this encouraged the flight of the latter from the neighborhoods where they became a minority, reselling their house for a pittance to unscrupulous promoters, who themselves then sold them at high prices to newcomers to the skin. darker.

Obviously, a very strong residential segregation resulted from it, penning the African-American migrants coming from the States of the South in certain districts. And finally to swap the chains of their ancestors for those of automobile assembly, repeating all day the same gestures for a derisory salary, not even allowing them even to caress the hope of one day being able to afford the one of those vehicles they made with their own hands.

So inevitably, one day, some revolted, organizing strikes and demonstrations to denounce this continuation of slavery by other means, showing one facet of the fight for racial equality in the United States.

Today, the factories are still there, but employ ten times fewer people, due to robotization as much, if not more, than relocations. But the General Motors flag still flies proudly over the brand new downtown skyscrapers.

The real golden age of the city, if there was one, would undoubtedly be to be found in culture, with the epic of the Motown label, created in 1959 and a real launching pad for many stars. blacks of American music. There are still reminiscences of the latter, including in the frenzied gospels sung during the masses.

As for the churches, they appear as one of the leavens of the ” community organizing », this form of solidarity by which impoverished populations collectively take charge of their problems rather than waiting for the public authorities to deign to take an interest in their fate.

Because, if the scourges seem to accumulate around these houses left abandoned over the evictions and foreclosures, some inhabitants are nevertheless fighting not to sink, like this young man who is fixing up the house himself which he has just acquired for next to nothing.

The key to the future of the city seems delivered by this former worker who proudly shows the car he has patiently reconstructed piece by piece. All that’s missing is one to hit the road: an engine. An ironic but significant metaphor for the one who had acquired the nickname ” Motor Town ».

I. M.

Detroiters, by Andreï Schtakleff, in theaters since May 4.

3/ Return to Baltimore

At a time when the movement Black Lives Matter continues to stir America, the creators of The Wire (Bugged), David Simon and George Pelecanos, devote a mini-series of six episodes to the drift of the Baltimore police and their violence.

Like The Wire twenty years ago, We Own This City is inspired by documentary work, here the book of the same name written by journalist Justin Fenton (published in France in 2022 by Sonatine editions under the title The city belongs to us).

The series thus returns to the story of the Gun Trace Task Force of the Baltimore Police Department, a group created to maintain order by keeping criminals off the streets, which ended up operating as a veritable criminal organization, carrying out illegal searches, robbing arrestees, faking evidence and extorting money. money to drug dealers.

The series masterfully dissects the mechanisms of socialization to illegality and violence within the Baltimore police

The very fragmented narration follows several temporal threads, between the beginning of the 2000s and 2017, the year of the dismantling of the Gun Trace Task Force. We follow multiple characters – too many, perhaps, compared to the short format of the series which does not allow them to be deepened as in The Wire. An important red thread is formed by the fate of the policeman Wayne Jenkins, who we see at his beginnings, a little clumsy, and who gradually socializes with illegality and violence within the Baltimore police.

The series masterfully dissects the mechanisms of this process by showing how the police officers “train” one after the other in practices that are at the margins of the law and impunity. For example, his colleagues teach Wayne how to tweak his report to pass off gratuitous violence as self-defense. A policeman named Daniel Hersl, with no less than 50 brutality complaints to his credit, is not convicted once and “promoted” within the Gun Trace Task Forcewhich shows excellent numbers in the police statistics.

We Own This City regularly refers to the murder of Freddie Grey, a police blunder that occurred in 2015 and was followed by urban riots. This case has raised awareness among judicial authorities about the extent of police violence in Baltimore. However, the eight police officers of the Gun Trace Task Forcewho ended up in prison seem, in the series, totally devoid of any conscience.

The Wire, broadcast in 2002, adopted a symmetrical point of view between police officers and inhabitants of poor neighborhoods. This is not the case of We Own This City. But the report on the dysfunctions of the American police is no less overwhelming.

Naïri Nahapétian

We Own this City, by David Simon and George Pelecanos, 6 x 60 min, currently on OCS



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