Movie Review: We Are Not Ghosts

Review by Elizabeth Lewis, Staff Writer

Recently, Detroit has been in the news for having declared bankruptcy, the largest city in the United States to do so. How Detroit went from a golden city with a booming auto industry to a downtrodden, depressed area with seemingly little hope is a complex story. With the mass exodus of manufacturing jobs from the United States to various locations overseas, many cities dependent upon factory jobs were left in the dust, Detroit being among the hardest hit.

The film We Are Not Ghosts, released in 2012 and directed by Mark Dworkin and Melissa Young, tells the story of several Detroit communities who refuse to be made ashamed of their once beaming city. Throughout the film, a group can be heard chanting “My city, my city, my city,” in call and response form. The poetic chant includes rattling off the many hardships faced by residents of the “313,” as well including the fact that these people are not ready to give up quite yet.

Amongst the darkness of city life in Detroit is a sense of undying optimism from community leaders who refuse to let their city fail. Guided by hope for a better future, these leaders have created community gardens in urban areas in order help combat the growing nutrition deficiencies and obesity complications growing amongst the population of the city. Along with these effects is the idea that these farms are creating jobs for the community, a desperate requirement for a good quality of life.

We Are Not Ghosts film
We Are Not Ghosts film

One of the best moments of the film is a scene at a school called the Nsroma Institute. Some of the children talk about life in Detroit, making comments about the abandoned houses and the boards on the windows that are their signature guise. Several of the teachers interviewed seem to be very talented with a keen interest in helping these kids receive an education in order to achieve a better Detroit in the future. One of the teachers said that she always tells her students that “smart is something that you get,” while intelligence is something that they are born with.

The main focus of the film was on the local food movement, which is possible in large cities, even Detroit. By encouraging people to take a stand and take control of the food they eat, keeping it local, and keeping it healthy, the owners of these farms are doing a great service to their community. Not only are they promoting healthy lifestyles, they are giving work to people who desperately need jobs. The owners are also creating an industry within Detroit that can stay in the city, with no danger of leaving the city in the dust, as auto manufacturing has in the past.

We Are Not Ghosts is an inspiring film that tells the story of a community that refuses to be shut down. The unyielding optimism of these Detroit residents is a necessary piece of the puzzle that is putting Detroit back together. As a woman standing in front of her Detroit home with her children put it, if the city made it through the Great Depression, it can make it through this recession, too.

Editor’s Note: There are two more films left this semester as part of Ohio University’s Common Experience Project on Sustainability. All film screenings will be at the Athena cinema on Court Street.

“Bidder 70”               Oct.16-17                   7 p.m.

 “Chasing Ice”         Oct. 30                        7  p.m.