To kick off an evening of wine and schmoozing at Tech Town Detroit, David Hines Jr., executive producer of “Solomon” and Michigan alum, gave a short introduction for Valiant Production’s new feature film in hope of rallying more supporters. The film itself is a love letter of sorts to a rapidly evolving Detroit. From the short trailer, the massive yet nostalgically empty cityscape of Detroit seems to be the focal point of the film. Hines noted that the goal of “Solomon” is to examine the controversial topic of gentrification from a more sympathetic angle. In the movie, a younger white man seeks counsel from an older Black man. This intends to show an interracial friendship, that may not have otherwise formed due to differing cultural backgrounds, can flourish in today’s Detroit.
Hines is stepping in dangerous territory by trying to show positive sides of gentrification. Through gentrification, people who can no longer afford to live in their neighborhood infused with its own rich history are forced out by more affluent members of younger generations. By definition, the upsides of gentrification go to the gentrifiers (usually white and wealthy) while the downsides go to the locals (usually poor people of color).
In the story, Hines and co-writer/fellow Michigan alum J.B. Armstrong attempt to make the case that good can come from people of different backgrounds living side-by-side in today’s rapidly changing Detroit. The film looks at how gentrification can spark new human connection, allowing a blurring of cultural barriers that have historically kept people of different races apart. It’s difficult to say if “Solomon” will tackle its subject matter with care or cross the line into classism. Nonetheless, many older locals are excited to see a representation of the city that accounts for the experience of all Detroiters.
As Hines jumped into a Q&A from the attendees, I noticed the majority of people attending the event were Detroiters affiliated with the film. Makeup artists, actors, producers and devoted followers were present. Hines, himself a Detroit native, heads the project alongside Armstrong. Armstrong is based out of Los Angeles and has long been immersed in filmmaking, receiving his Bachelor’s in Screen Arts & Cultures. He is the creative director of their production company, Valiant Films. Hines stated that this was the team’s first stab at a feature length film, and they wanted to see if they could even accomplish a project of this scope.
Films that have been shot in Detroit, like “Robocop,” don’t show Detroit, but a dystopian or generalized depiction of the city. On the other end of the spectrum a media narrative of Detroit depicts the city as the site of a “revival,” focusing on the new developments in downtown that largely benefit gentrifiers while neglecting the experience of locals. Supporters of the film are excited to see their city presented in a more authentic and positive light.
As someone unfamiliar with Detroit (outside of the aforementioned depictions), it was refreshing and inspiring to see that those loyal to it take pride in where they come from. Since “Solomon” is shot all over the city, it seeks to bring a wider perspective to Detroit that non-locals such as myself have never experienced before. As I spend my summer in Ann Arbor, I am no longer hesitant to venture into the Motor City as “Solomon” seeks to debunk dated stereotypes and bring light to the city’s developing melting pot.