REVIEW: Documentary contrasts Detroit and Dubai

Apr. 18, 2013 @ 03:45 PM

Detroit has been the subject of documentaries with varying focus on its abandonment and resurgence, but “I Have Always Been A Dreamer” looks at the city in a different light. The former boom town’s status today is juxtaposed with mid-boom Dubai, the shiny, always-being-developed city in United Arab Emirates that was once just desert.
The 2012 documentary by Sabine Gruffat will screen Tuesday at the Varsity Theatre in Chapel Hill as part of the Ackland Film Forum. The forum is a collaboration with the UNC Ackland Art Museum and various UNC departments to showcase film. Films are chosen by Ackland staff and UNC faculty.
Gruffat is an assistant professor of art at UNC. Her film was produced between 2007 and 2012 and shot in both cities, with interviews with local artists, scholars and residents. The footage is sometimes sweeping, filmed from various modes of transportation. We see more than just one house in Detroit, or two, or a block. We see house after house down the road. Seeing more than just a sample gives us a bigger picture of the abandoned, occupied, maintained and dilapidated. We also see actors depicting the Henry Ford era and his ideal community. We see protesters. We see a man who runs a black history museum on one side of his barbershop.
In Dubai, we see the skyscrapers and the constant outdoing of luxury accommodations for millions of tourists. Gruffat also shows outside Dubai, where the service workers live in a labor camp. They are international visitors just like the tourists, there for what the booming UAE city offers.
Gruffat doesn’t rush audiences through the cities. The pace is slow enough to allow you to ponder while you process. “I Have Always Been A Dreamer” is a thought-provoking essay as film, one that makes you look at the world through a new window.


WHAT: “I Have Always Been A Dreamer” documentary film by Sabine Gruffat. Screening is part of the Ackland Film Forum.
WHEN: 7 p.m. April 23
WHERE: Varsity Theatre
123 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill