Kathryn Bigelow - How the Past Still Rings True in "Detroit"

July 31, 2017 - Kathryn Bigelow 07/31/2017 Views: 11,392

Kathryn Bigelow explains how she achieved an accurate retelling of a 1960s riot in her film "Detroit" and talks about the importance of examining past racial injustices. (6:06)

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Please welcomeKathryn Bigelow.

-♪ -(cheering, applause)

-Whew!-Welcome to The Daily Show.

-Thank you. -I am sucha hug fan of your work.

You have directedsome of the most gripping films

we have had the pleasureof experiencing.

-Wow. -You were awardedan Academy Award

for, uh, your directing.

Looking at this film, Detroit,

would you say that this wasone of the more difficult films

that you have worked on?

I would definitely say yes.

Emotionally, it wasvery, very difficult.

-Right. -Not only for...the cast but the crew.

I mean, everybody,everybody was...

You could not be immune tothe emotionality of this piece.

And I would oftentimes aft...I'd say, "Cut,"

I'd go out to the porch--whenever you see it,

you'll know that this alltakes place in this one house

and there's this porch--and I'd find the cast,

you know, sometimeswith their head buried

in their hands,you know, and just...

I tried to just move it alongas quickly as I could,

-Right. -'cause it'sa very tragic story.

Why did you chooseto tell this story

about what was happeningin Detroit?

Well, I think the-thethinking going in

was the canvas is huge.

I mean, you're lookingat a rebellion

that took placeover five days in 1967

and that was only one of almost300 in the year of 1967,

so there was a tremendous amountof social unrest,


And so you have this beginningof it starts with the riot,

and then it begins to telescopedown to several characters,

and then it telescopes down evenfurther to this one character.

So it's an opportunityfor me to humanize,

what I thinkis somewhat unthinkable,

which is the degree of policebrutality and racial injustice

that took place in those,

in those few hoursin the Algiers Motel.

Is it ever strange for youtelling a story

that is set in a timemany decades ago,

and, yet, it still seems timely?

It still seems like the storycould have been

of a few days ago?

Well, that was exactlymy entry point.

When it was first presentedto me by Mark Boal,

the writer that I worked with,

Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty,

I-- it was just around the timeof Ferguson, Missouri,

and I was thinking, this-thissounds like today.

I mean, this is 50 years ago,yet it's today.

And if it's today,could it be tomorrow?

And so my hope was that the filmcould possibly be part

of a larger conversation andencourage a conversation

about racial injusticein this country.

And I think that-- or perhapsother stories coming forward.

You know, I think it's a reallymeaningful conversation

for this countryto have at this point.

What you cannot escape, though,

when you're tacklingany subject like this is,

because you're dealing withpolice brutality,

because you are dealing withracial injustice,

there is an element of people

always questioning peopleasking the whys.

And I know one of the toughestwhys that came to you

was why are you telling the story?

You are a white womantelling a story

of black people in Detroit.

Why would you do that?

Well, I think that, um,

I mean, I certainly had to dosome soul searching

in order to answer that and thengo forward with it.

But I found the story so moving,

and I felt that it was animportant story to tell

and so compelling that--

-and I had the opportunityto tell it, -Right.

so I thought perhapsthat mitigated

the negative aspectsof the fact.

You know, I thought, am I theright person to tell this story?

Absolutely not.

-But does the storyneed telling? Yes. -Right.

And that's whatwas my motivation.

When you, when you workedon the story, as well,

I-I noticed that you worked withsome key figures

within theAfrican American community,

people who could lend credenceto the story

and make it factually correct.

It was based specifically on theAlgiers Motel incident.

Why that incident in particular?

And why did you feelit was so important

to get prominentAfrican Americans

who were steeped in historyinvolved in the project?

Well, we were very lucky to havepeople like Michael Dyson

and Henry Louis Gates to help uswith this project.

And what was so important was tobase it on actual events.

You know, that the resear-- itwas extremely well researched,

and, um, and it was veryimportant that we get it right.

You know, that it be accurate,that it be authentic,

and that we were true tothe events that took place.

-We also hadeyewitness accounts. -Right.

Now, when you're a director,

we understand there's thecommercial aspect,

you're trying to make moneyfrom the film.

It is a business,at the same time,

you're trying to tell stories,you're trying to move people.

If there is one thingyou would hope would move

after people watched this movie,

what would you hopethat thing would be?

Well, I would hope that itencourages a conversation,

you know, invites a conversation

about the racial injusticein this country.

I mean, for instance,you're from South Africa

and there's ameaningful conversation

about truth and reconciliation,

-but here I feel like there'sjust silence. -Right.

And, you know,young African American men

are afraid to drivein their own car.

And, you know, there's just--who knows what will happen?

And I just think this is,you know,

there's-there'sa situation out there

that has need-- in my humble--

I'm just a filmmaker,but in my humble opinion,

-needs to be addressed.-right.

And I hope, um, I hope this can

certainly encourage thatto happen.

I mean, we had a screening theother night on Capitol Hill

-hosted by RepresentativeJohn Conyers. -Oh, wow.

And he has a billto end racial profiling

and he's-he's encour-- you know,he's encouraging people

to see the movieand engender conversation.

Well, you call yourselfa humble filmmaker

-but we think you'reexceptional. -Thank you.

Thank you so muchfor being on the show.

-Thank you. -I hope people goout and watch the movie.

Detroit will be in theaterseverywhere August 4.

And stay tuned nowfor a sneak peek of the movie

during the commercial break.

-Kathryn Bigelow, everybody.-Thank you.

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