You’ve probably heard all of the buzz about the Detroit, je t’aime project. We were lucky enough to grab a coffee at Woodbridge Pub with Nora Mandray to talk Detroit and get the scoop on the project.
“In France, people don’t smile as much” says Nora as she compares Detroiters to the French. She discussed the sense of community in Detroit that you don’t see as often in Europe. Nora & Helene Bienvenu have become a part of that community while filming Detroit Je t’Aime here for the past two years. Despite having traveled all over the globe, this feeling of acceptance is unique to Detroit. Nora explained that what pushed her to become a Detroiter is the expectation that you will commit to the city. You “sort of have to [become a Detroiter] or have to go back home”. She mentioned that when you head to do interviews in the city, you have to get your hands dirty. If you visit an urban farm for an interview, they expect you to help out afterwards. You don’t get your story without a little effort.
The Detroit, je t’aime “frenchies” view Detroit as a model for other cities. It was initially explored as a part of Nora and Helene’s ‘utopia around the world’ project. Things that happen here can be a guide for the next steps for other cities. The Do-It-Yourself methodology of the city is a key part of the narrative being told in Detroit, Je t’Aime.
Nora wants viewers to experience Detroit like she has, to “know what it feels like to drive downtown or to stand in an urban prairie in Corktown.” While there have been quite a few documentaries popping up about Detroit recently, this one is completely different. It will be an interactive web documentary which is a combination of a video and a website, that can be clicked and explored as you watch it. Nora shared a great example: Pinepoint. Detroit, Je t’Aime will focus not only on showcasing the DIY community, but also engaging the viewer into the community with DIY instructions.
We definitely want to see this film come to fruition, so to quote Nora : “Kickstarter or die!”
- Alissa Shelton
Detroit je t’aime started as an idea that sounded crazy to most of my friends. I was on a quest for utopia and what I had heard and read about the Motor City was deeply inspiring to me. I wanted to come see what was happening up close. Because I was aware of the huge amount of documentaries and TV reports that had been made about the city, I made it a point to stay in Detroit for a full year, and to become part of the community here. The last thing I wanted was to tell stories from people without deeply connecting with them.
Being a foreigner allows you to cross cultures at a different level. I don’t have all the American cultural references and I’m in fact still learning (I ate my first s’mores ever at the beginning of my stay in Detroit, and I only recently discovered “ants on a log,” a couple of weeks ago!) I’ve found Detroiters extremely welcoming and eager to teach me about their city. This “grassroots” approach has been so enlightening, and guess what, this is how I found utopia in Detroit.
What I call utopia is a desire for change, a dream of making the impossible possible. I’ve been around the city and I’m aware of the challenges that most neighborhoods are facing. But the sense of community, resilience, struggle and pasison for change that exist here is nothing like what I’ve never seen. I believe that Detroiters are building the city of tomorrow through their DIY efforts, by sharing meals made from the food they grew themselves, by repairing used bikes to ride with friends, or by hacking a wi-fi network to make it free to a whole neighborhood. Through those community efforts, Detroiters are sharing stories with one another, and they’re building a more inclusive and participative society. This is what I’ve seen.
This is what I’ve sharing on my blog for the past year. And this is what my film will be about.
- Nora Mandray