Urban Roots

The documentary  Urban Roots  uses a very effective and cinematic framing technique and takes advantage of how humans react to juxtaposition. It starts off utterly entertaining, with lively black-and-white images of Detroit in it’s prime. The glistening motor city, land of opportunity, the future of America. It’s an Artist  style silent film. Then the film cuts to present-day Detroit, which is the sheer opposite of this booming metropolis of the past. It’s the detroit that we have become accustomed with- hazardous, abandoned, decrypted, adjectives that match both the run-down city and it’s residents. It shows decay, crime, and a general apathy that is pungent in the air. Detroit, plainly put, is a place that you don’t want to go. I feel like we’ve established this rather clearly in the past few weeks. However, the film presents Urban Farming as a creative way to pave a new path for the city. Maybe it won’t revitalize the urban glamour Detroit once had, but it will bring the city in a new and undeniably better direction.

Urban Farming is the middle group that Detroit needs. 

I found the music in the film to be the perfect exemplar of this idea. In the beginning of the film, the score was lively, energetic, carefree. It seemed etherial, like it could go on forever without worry. However, as the film cut to present-day Detroit, the music changed to something far more sinister and depressing. It signified desperation, apathy, a lack of hope. The contrast in music, as well as image, undoubtably evokes a strong reaction in the viewer. Throughout the film, whenever footage of broken-down Detroit played, the melancholy music was to follow. It’s getting the viewer to associate the feeling of desperation with the city itself. It’s a very smart technique that sound designers everywhere use. Then, the film introduced the third lens to look at the city through. First, it was as a glorious boomdown. Second, it was a decrypted hellhole. Third, it was a unique haven for urban agriculture and sustainability. WIth this idea, urban farming, came a change in the score. I remember sitting in my seat and my mood changing because of this. The music was not as lively as it had been in the opening credits. It was slower, but not somber. It signified repetition, labor, routine, but was also aurally beautiful. This is a perfect anecdote for the idea of urban farming as a whole. The music and the images made a beautiful marriage. Even the ironic use of the song “Pure Imagination”, makes and important point about the oppertunities that urban agriculture affords Detroit.

The idea of Urban farming as an unorthodox savior was also captured by very poignant narrators. There are two main arguments for urban farming, and both carry equal weight. One, Malik from EarthWorks farm, puts it most plainly: “Black farmers do it to have control over their own exisence.” There are very few ways to get fresh produce in Detroit. This is the best way for people to control what they put in their bodies, and, following that, their health and existence. People have lost knowledge of where food comes from, and Urban Farming helps them get some of this knowledge back.

A student at Wayne State university makes a very compelling comment. She discussed the cultural effects of urban farming. It’s a way to beautify the neighborhood and rally the people.. A way for the downtrodden in detroit to take back their city, and see themselves in a more positive light. They can keep themselves ABOVE what happens, they can impact the world positively.


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